A Return to Arms
From the Journal of Azoth
The stars are quite beautiful here, far from the riff raff associated with the settlements. A story book of constellations that dance across the Autumn night sky. The Warrior surges forth with the fury of Bahamut at her back, together they charge towards the Medusa guarding the Chalice. The Dove flees from this conflict, knowing that peace against such a creature was impossible. The Great Bear grazes far to the east, as nature cares little for this conflict, or any conflict for that matter as it has far outlived the conflicts of even the elves, long in their lives. The only thing it cares for is preparing itself and its offspring the Twin Cubs for the coming winter.
In the distance I hear the river gently flowing and the wind rustling through the trees. As cold as this breeze may be, we are protected from the courtyard walls of Feywatch, newly liberated. Even with the protective walls one can smell the forest, with every deep breath my nostrils and lungs fill with an air free of sea salt and the urban sprawl of my apartment at the landing.
Even with this peace I cannot sleep. Within these walls are many dark relics that need to be purged. Within that forest a hag still lives, running for now but for how long? Between those stars, a horror that, in our desperation, I had allowed onto this world today. That is why I sit here, wide awake in this courtyard, writing by the light of the brick Warg had given in thanks for saving him from the machinations of Greeley and from Death itself. Aiden, Mac, Brennus and even Gil lay in a deep sleep in a clearing we made of the rubble. No one dared stay in the keep aside for Tahli until we had cleared it of the bizarre relics and fetishes that had been scattered about by the previous residents. I believe her to be asleep now too, as I can no longer hear the distant mutterings of her talking to the newest members of her undead cohort. She seems to keep a distance from our camp, I’m assuming because people feel uneasy around the undead. The only other one I know to be awake still is Merpip, who I see diligently patrolling the battlements above, ensuring we are not ambushed in the night. They had all fought valiantly today, to say that they deserved the rest would be an understatement.
We had left Driftwood Tavern several days before, each carrying part of Merpip’s astounding beeswax model of the keep, with what we had hoped would be a worthy plan. We would approach the castle from the east, following the river from New Blainsport. Aiden would use an oil that Merpip and I had discovered in Greeley’s chapel that allows one to walk between our realm and the ethereal plane to scout Feywatch unseen. His objective would be to find the secret underwater entrance in and perform any other possible reconnaissance. Knowing that information we would sneak in with Merpip’s guidance and fight our way up, with any luck catching our prey off guard. Our primary target was Jetsam, both due to her being perceived as the weakest link in the coven and due to our own animosity towards her. Plans fall apart easily though, when met with reality.
In the wee hours of dawn, we gathered outside of New Blainsport. Tahli was the last to arrive and she seemed tired. Almost as if she had little sleep as of late. Behind her marched an assortment of skeleton’s that none of us were familiar with, they appeared to be that of hobgoblins, long deceased. Knowing her eccentricities, we kept any questions to ourselves, instead using the time to hand over unused equipment to arm them. The empty sockets where their eyes once were stared at us, silently accepting the weapons. As I handed my dagger to one and my crossbow to another I could not help but feel cold, something I often find welcoming but this time setting me at unease. Mac also started handing off components to what I assume was the catapult she kept talking highly of after several drinks in Driftwood to the undead horde. A possible contingency that likely saved our lives.
The three days march was uneventful. Silent even. There was the occasional banter and brief conversation one breakfast over a possible new plan but that was quickly dismissed. Perhaps it was fear over the coming battle? Contemplation if there was something we had forgotten? Curiosity if we were ever to return to New Blainsport again? The silence was finally replaced when we reached the outskirts of Feywatch, still far too distant for us to see but its presence was made known. The forest itself trembled from the creatures that took residence there. From the branches, dolls made of grass and cloth hung. Bizarre totems placed by the coven that, while not magical, made their presence well known.
Seeing that this was likely our last opportunity we decided to have one last breakfast, courtesy of Aiden, from his tablecloth that had recently been repaired at the Lonely Tower. After a long march we were hungry for a substantial meal that was not our dry rations, and without a second thought we began to feast. It was foolish of us to not prepare in some form. Halfway through we heard the hellish shriek of one of those winged devils and before we could react it escaped. Our position was known and the feast became more hurried as we had hoped to finish before we were met with the repercussions of our oversights. Mac, Gil and I set out our winged companions to fan the forest, keeping an eye out for any patrols. My new companion Whateley saw what appeared to be 4 ogre’s coming our way, Psalme saw a similar retinue coming from another direction. Knowing that without intervention our feast would be interrupted for all before the magical benefit set in I donned the black mask and assumed the form of Granny Jetsam.
Stepping away from the table and into the forest with the undead retinue behind me I went to meet the patrol. But before I could lay eyes on any of them the forest filled with a thick smoke and the sound of charging footsteps. I warned the others and dove behind the wall of bone and metal as a troll and a 2 headed entity that looked somehow familiar to me charged outward. The feast was lost and we could only hope our lives weren’t lost with it.
Brennus surged forth and toppled the troll as it made its way for Tahli and myself, Aiden and Gil ran to the left to guard our flank while Mac and Merpip guarded the other. The skeleton’s dove in onto the grounded troll on Tahli’s command and brought down the might of death itself. Four more ogres charged forth from the left, not seeing Aiden as they passed him by but coming towards me. The one that reached me was scared off from my spellcasting, and ran right into Aiden who felled the beast. Through Gil’s deception the other three simpletons were distracted through a series of flashing colors and dancing lights that freed up Aiden to focus on the center. Four more charged the right as Aiden dove into the smoke cloud.
What happened next was cut short as the troll, the ettin, the skeletal horde, Brennus, Tahli and myself were consumed by a new smoke cloud. All around me I could hear the din of combat but I could not see my own hand in front of my face. The din was replaced with the howling roar of what sounded to be a thousand insects to the right and a scream of help from Aiden in front of us. Being scared for my friend’s safety I carefully backed out from the fog, knocking into several trees on the way. Tahli was already out here and to the right was indeed a swarm of insects, far larger than I had ever seen. To the left a box was where Gil once stood, I’m assuming another of his tricks and to the right Merpip shot his magic bow between the insect swarm and the fog cloud, flanked on either side by crossbow wielding skeletons. I quickly joined them and fired several eldritch blasts from my still hag form before backing away. An ogre, seeing movement ran forth at me but stopped short when he perceived what he thought was Granny Jetsam.
The fog cloud fell revealing Brennus and the skeletons still wailing upon the troll and trying to bring it down. One of skeletons unleashed cones of putrid acid from its maw which finally felled the beast. Brennus came running to my aid against the ogre but instead I feigned an attack against the gladiator and told the ogre to pursue a nonexistent group getting away. The ogre, having a brain nearly the size of a bulb of bullweed fell for the ruse and ran behind us. A sight that the skeletons did not seem to find amusing as they lodged two crossbow bolts into the back of its skull, vanquishing it.
As we turned the tide of battle and it seemed we were going to win this fight all the vegetation started to die around us. Tahli and Merpip’s skin turned blackened and Saila exploded into a cloud of feathers. From the cloud of insects Granny Jetsam appeared, marching towards us with intent in her eyes. Merpip released two arrows into her torso and she fell to her knees, but it was not a wicked cry that filled that air but instead the girlish scream of Aiden as his Disguise Self ended and he fell into the dirt. Tahli looked over at the unconscious form of Aiden but with a sigh I waved her off and force fed him one of my potions. He awoke with another girlish scream as he was met with my own visage of Jetsam.
Turning around I saw that we were met with two of those winged devils hiding in the trees, as the skeletons dispatched the distracted ogres one by one. Tricking them to come to my aid, the demons came down beside me where they were swiftly met with a fusillade of eldritch blasts and various projectiles. Turning back, we saw two ogres far off making their way back to the keep and the rest of the creatures felled.
Our presence was known, the element of surprise was gone. The forest quivered with a dark energy and the brazier at the keeps tallest tower was alit. Thinking quickly, we assembled the catapult and rested while Aiden slathered himself in the oil for his reconnaissance mission after consuming several of the groups health potions. During this time, both Tahli and Mac blinked out of and into existence. Tahli told us of a strange forest with wax dolls as far as could be seen, Mac told us of a similar forest but instead she saw what she thought was Stor in the distance, but returned before she could make contact. This had to be some form of trick from the coven, there was no other explanation for it. I also went over to the defeated ettin and flipped it onto its back. Examining it until I realized that I had seen the very same one on my trip up to the Phantom Peak, where I had first met a hag and where Caeladyn received her curse. I hoped that our quest today would not meet a similar fate.
After an hour Aiden appeared before us, winded and with several more puncture marks in his shirt. While on his mission, he gathered much information about the secret entrance and of a trap that lay there in the form of a fish person but before he could gather much more information, Sally Skinner jumped into the same realm as Aiden. The two fought but both broke off before one could slay the other. Aiden says she ran in fear but regardless of what actually happened he was bloodied and bruised and needed rest.
Now, under the protection of a Tiny Hut that Gil brought into existence, we tried for Brunch and Aiden healed himself. Over ale we discussed a new plan. With the advent of the catapult and an army of unseen servants brought forth by Gil and myself, we would use that to lay a continuous barrage on the keep. Under the cover of this barrage, we would sneak into the moat, I disguised as Jetsam, and Aiden disguised as if he was caught in my net. We would convince the fish person that I was Jetsam and that the rest of the party was getting away on the river and he was needed to pursue. Upon leaving the tunnel he would be jumped by the rest of the group and we would make our way in. It was the best we could think of considering the situation and we set the plan in motion. Leaving our orders to hold fire for 10 minutes to the servants we made our way to the tree line under the cover of Merpip’s Pass Without a Trace.
Mac and I practiced my Jetsam voice while Gil granted us all the ability to breath underwater. Then we waited. Silence filled the air for several minutes until with a dozen thuds and the smashing of clay the first volley hit the keep, along with our first fungal bomb, courtesy of Caeladyn as a gift for the hags. The demons watching the walls ducked and we made our way into the river unseen. Aiden and I made our way into the tunnel and were quickly met with the creature.
I do not know what came over me, perhaps my voice cracked? Perhaps I was made nervous by this narrow confine? Whatever it was, even through the use of magical means my deception was met with a harpoon in my chest. It tried to reel me in but I planted my feet into the ground and hexed the creature to weaken it. The sound of combat filled the tunnel behind me as Aiden swam around the cut the rope connecting the harpoon to the creature. I was free.
Suddenly the tunnel behind me was filled with an eerie silence. Over my shoulder I could see Brennus fighting with bullywugs but there was no sound. In my quick glance they seemed deformed in some way. I couldn’t help them, as Aiden currently stood valiantly before the merrow and needed my help. Together we fought against him, though unarmed his teeth and claws were still sharp. Behind him gathered 2 more of the deformed bullywugs but they couldn’t get around the large torso of the merrow.
The rest of the group filed into the tunnel, single file, as Aiden killed the merrow. Leaving us with the bullywugs, one standing strong before us, the other peculiarly slinking back. In the blink of an eye the rear one dropped its deception and revealed itself to be Jetsam. A spell coalesced in her claws but was cut off through a well-placed counterspell by Gil. Seeing Jetsam, my heart filled with rage as I transferred my hex and unleashed a torrent of eldritch blasts into her. Seeing the overwhelming group coming towards her she backed away into the dungeon, leaving with her an opened vial. Thinking nothing of it we kept up the attack but at the bottles location Aiden became stuck. The water there was filled with some form of magics and pulled him away. We gave chase and freed him, Gil through his cleverness, changed the color of the water elemental against the surrounding water, allowing us to defeat it with ease. Unfortunately, that, along with the harassment of the bullywugs behind us gave Jetsam enough time to make her escape upstairs.
This was it, this was our final chance, we had no means of escape but if we could defeat Jetsam, the coven will fall. We prepared ourselves and together, following Aiden mounted on Gil’s phantasmal steed we charged upstairs. Aiden was out of sight before I made it to the top, but I saw Mac face to face with Sally in the room before us. I fired at the purple flesh of the hag and dove into another room for cover. The room though, was covered in symbols of a dark nature, their very presence brought memories flooding back to me. I stared blankly at them but stole myself and returned to the fray, my friends needed my help.
Making my way out the door, I saw Merpip and Brennus in the courtyard with Annie and her troupe of ogres. Firing into Annie I got out of the way to make room for them to fall back inside the building. Turning about, the door where Mac and Sally Skinner were had sealed itself but no noise came from the room beyond. I should’ve tried to help her, but in the door to the chapel I saw the sinister smile of Jetsam. My emotions got the better of me, Tahli and I gave chase but the hag had already disappeared into the next room, with her cursed fungus guarding the door.
This is when things got blurry to me. Where I made a terrible mistake. In my periphery I saw 2 redcaps going after Tahli, what was left of her skeletons trying to protect her. All I could think of though was Jetsam, my hatred towards her and her kind. How much she’s tried to hurt me and my friends. It had to stop. She had to be stopped. That’s when I saw it. A ripple in our realm, faint as it was, but it was there. With no other thought I snapped my fingers and it tore open. The chapel filled with darkness and screams as our reality opened up. Even from a distance you could hear the beasts slithering, eternally hungry for whatever nightmare world they had come from that had clearly been picked clean by them.
Everything after that is spotty for me. The redcaps charged out and attacked Tahli. Annie tried to attack us through the window but was bested by magic curtains. Brennus ran in to protect us while I fed Tahli a health potion. Sally came from the eldritch darkness and tried to stop us. A rumble came from the distance, before Aiden appeared in the chapel by our side.
Then everything froze. The castle shook with a dark energy. Sally screamed obscenities towards Jetsam. Annie fled with her followers. It was at that moment, I knew, Jetsam lays dead in that darkness. Sally slowly turned her head towards me and said.
“You will pay for your crimes.”
Before she vanished to what I can only imagine to be one of the hells.
The last redcap vanished from existence and I closed the rip in reality. There laid Jetsam. Her body mangled and ruined. Much like how I saw my own people that fateful day. What have I done? At what cost is our victory? What abomination have I fed?
Merpip’s watch is going to be over soon. I should go volunteer for the next watch, I won’t be sleeping much anyway, I might as well let the others get some more sleep.
- Sally Skinner and Annie still live in their respective realms.
- There was an extremely large cauldron of poison needed for an unknown purpose.
- During the ransacking of the keep we found a young girl trapped that only spoke Sylvan, where did she come from?
- The keep must be prepared for the arrival of the Hobgoblins.
- Aiden made a deal with some form of demon and unleashed it into the country side.