Wildday, Fertility Week, Storm Season, 1625
The heroes have come into the woods beneath the Shadow Plateau to prepare it for Lieren’s peoples’ arrival in a few short weeks, there they encountered a large encampment of trolls.
“Your forest?” Lieren moved forward, “I’m afraid there has been some misunderstanding, I paid the Queen of Valadon for the right to this land. It can’t possibly be, your forest.”
“Yet,” the armored troll spread her hand and motioned around, “…here I and my people are. I am Feylin, of the Raz’mark. Please come into my camp.” She turned and waved the group forward.
After everyone had settled around a fire, a shallow basket of live fist sized grubs was passed around. Trying to ingratiate himself with his host, Illiaro took one, cut it in half and then consumed half. He handed it to his cousin, who immediately turned green. Vostor tried as best he could, but shortly after consuming his half of the grub the Lunar Tarsh warrior turned and wretched the partially chewed grub onto the ground. Several of the trollkin started cackling and making fake wretching noises. The rest of the trolls had a good chuckle, all while happily munching on the massive grubs.
Lieren turned a new shade of green, quickly waving off the basket.
Illiaro finally leaned in, getting down to business. “Why have you come here? These lands are not known for permanent troll settlements, nor does this look like the start of one.” He motioned around him.
“Indeed. My people and I are from a cave in the side of the plateau, but we were driven from our homes. We’ve been forced to settle down here in these woods, trying to keep to what darkness we can find.”
Nodding, Illiaro took a long draw from his waterskin, trying to wash the taste of grub out. “What happened?”
“A week ago, one of my enlo, little Sej,” she motioned toward one of the trollkin, “discovered a broo skull on the plateau. It had gems for eyes and clearly was enchanted, so he brought it home. No sooner had he done so, then trouble started. Insects getting out of their pens, Enlo acting strange. We knew immediately that the skull was cursed, so went to cast it out.
“No sooner had we,” she indicated herself and one of the other dark trolls, “approached it when a fell spirit manifested from the skull and began to attack us. It summoned demons and tried to destroy us. We were forced to flee for our lives. And thus, we are here.”
Vostor glanced about, “Do you have no shaman?” Illiaro glared at him but Feylin nodded, “Not for several years, our last shaman passed, and none have replaced him.”
Lieren looked at Illiaro, who nodded his assent. “If we could rid your cave of this fell spirit, would you go back there and leave these woods?”
Feyline grinned a toothy grin, “I thought you’d never ask.”
Some hours later, as the heroes followed behind their single trollkin guide (who spoke no Esrolian), Vostor groused, “Seriously cousin… demons and fell spirits?” He gripped his sword tight, “I don’t like the sound of any of this.”
Illiaro smiled at his cousin and clapped on the shoulder. “What’s the worse that could happen?” Vostor opened his mouth several times to protest but couldn’t think of which horrible thing to say first, so left them all unsaid. Irvanos had been sent back to camp to warn the others and wait for the warriors to return. Lieren looked down and behind them off the edge of the trail as the ground continue to recede behind them.
Higher and higher along the edge of the plateau they climbed until a runecarved cave entrance stood before them. The trollkin motioned inside and let out a soft, “Aroo.” It scuttled back from the cave entrance then hid behind some boulders to one side.
Stepping up, Lieren muttered a spirit incantation and looked at the auras of several spirits of darkness flitting about the entrance. They looked agitated, but not by the heroes, but by whatever was in the cave. Vostor and Illiaro both lit torches. Illiaro called upon the power of Humakt to shield himself and hone his blade. Their rune magic expended, but better prepared they stepped inside.
Several troll living chambers later they came upon a troll corpse, a small hideous demon tearing and eating the flesh. The combat was quick, and the demon was ended before it had much chance to react.
In the next chamber, a large pile of insect and grub baskets was writhing, its contents spilled out to the floor. Lieren nodded at the pile, holding up two fingers, her Second Sight could clearly see two more demons within.
Illiaro stepped up to the pile and announced himself in true Humakti fashion. The pile erupted, insects and grubs tossed aside as the two demons burst forth. The first one leapt at Illiaro, but it landed on his shield, ineffectively scratching at tearing at it. The other leapt at Vostor.
Using the shield to pin the thing to the wall, Illiaro stabbed at it, killing it quickly. Vostor was not nearly as lucky. He slashed and stabbed at the demon he faced but is was far faster than him and leapt up to cling to his arm, claws and teeth tearing. With a cry of pain, Vostor reeled back, still swinging ineffectively with his right hand as his left hand and most of his left arm fell to the ground beside him, blood spraying the cave wall.
Illiaro turned to his cousin’s cries and sliced through the creature’s midsection. Lieren dropped to beside Vostor and called on her spirit magic to stop the bleeding. Vostor stared down at his severed arm, gritting his teeth. Illiaro grabbed it and set it in his cousin’s lap. Lieren pulled Vostor to look at her. “We will fix this Vostor, we can… just not now.”
He nodded weakly. Illiaro leaned in, “We have to push forward, stay here. We will be back in a moment.” Another weak nod from Vostor and the pair of heroes turned to leave him there.
Lieren frowned and whispered to Illiaro as they crept forward, “I can repair the damage, after Aldrya grants me her aid once more… I’m sorry, I…”
Illiaro cut her off. “He knew the risks. We will fix it. Now let’s find that spirit and get out of this troll cave.” The discussion ended they climbed up into the final cavern.
There, laying on a shelf ahead of them was the skull Feylin had told them about. As they approached a mist poured from the thing’s nostrils, then flared into a large broo like form half there and half not. It brayed like a mad goat then focused on the young priestess with a howl, energy coursing from it as the two locked in spirit combat.
As the two vied for control of one another, Illiaro ran forward, his blessed blade flashing, cutting swathes through the mist creature. Finally, with a triumphant howl from the spirit, Lieren collapsed on the ground. Illiaro watched in horror as the thing flowed toward the unconscious priestess. He continued to slash at it, and just before it would have slid into the priestess to possess her, the warrior’s blade flashed one more time in the torch light as it slid home. The spirit howled and brayed before exploding in a flash of sickly green light, banished back the Spirit Realm.
Back at the troll camp, Illiaro showed Feylin the crushed chunks of skull and the two gems. “Keep the gems,” she said, “I’ll dispose of the skull fragments.” Behind them, a troll priestess reattached Vostor’s arm with the aid of Argan Argar’s magic. Lieren had recovered after a few hours, able to move once again, though a little weak.
Feylin turned to Lieren and nodded, “Alright Aldryami, as promised, the forest is yours, my people and I will be gone before morning.” The elf nodded back at the troll noble.
The rest of the survey of the forest was uneventful, and Lieren discovered an ancient oak tree, just perfect for Milindiahna’s daughter. Mirava and her household, along with the new elves from the Old Woods arrived for the high holy day of Aldrya, and a great feast of berries, fruits, and nuts was shared by all. The humans paid their respects then left the new grove as the final sacred rites were performed.
Sacred Time arrived, and the year’s harvest was average for Laodice. Portents turned though, and it looked like 1626 was likely to be a very difficult year. The seers’ proclaimed that the coming year would be cursed. Harvest portents were all very bad, but worse than that, the seers all agreed there would be a great death among the nobility. One of the rulers of Dragon Pass was fated to die.