The next day, the sleep-deprived, boggard-bruised rulers of Lomindor headed south to the place where Jubilost Narthropple had told them a dryad lived. They planned to ask her help in re-growing the five felled trees, downriver along the Shrike, where the lovely (but angry) nixie, Melianse, made her home.
Halfway to the dryad’s grove, another one of Keston’s men—a swarthy, human called Skylgannon—intercepted the party. He told Janekfan that she needed to return to Nettle’s Rest at once. Bringing Trevin with her for protection, Jane drove Jakul and Toboe eastward. Skylgannon then assertively took up the druid’s position, leading the group southward as per the directions on their vellum map.
It was late morning when Khrystos, Vincze, Skylgannon and Caspar stopped abruptly in their tracks. They heard a melodious, female voice crying through the shrubs up ahead. Approaching cautiously, they entered a lovely clearing on the banks of the River Shrike. The opening boasted an enormous oak tree on its north shore; sitting daintily on the tree’s roots was an exquisitely beautiful faerie with leaves sprouting from her hair. The Defenders’ half-sorcerer, half-ranger Baron leader, Khrystos, asked her what was the matter; why was she crying? The dryad sobbed that she was afraid for her life! When questioned further, she explained that a horrible, black tree-creature terrorized this part of the Narlmarches, wilting all vegetation and killing the fey beings who dwelt within it.
Just then, a handsome, horned satyr appeared from behind a nearby elm tree. Introducing himself as Falchos, he beseeched the Greenbelt Defenders for assistance in felling the evil tree. Khrystos then negotiated a clever agreement: if the dryad agreed to help Melianse re-grow her fallen trees, the Defenders would slay the black tree. After shaking hands, Falchos directed the humans to the spot marked “Blighted Hollow” on their map.
The sun was high in the midsummer sky when the Defenders reached the Hollow. The edges of the glade were marked by a ring of pallid, wilting vegetation. Spreading out cautiously and moving slowly, they noticed the local flora took on a black, putrid appearance towards the hollow’s center. Vincze then caught sight of something wretched—something vegetable!—rising up in front of them: “Scythe Tree!” she yelled, lobbing a Fireball at it. The plant-creature then ripped into Khrystos’ ribcage with a sharp, hook-shaped branch, and the Baron yelped in pain! One more fireball, and a well-placed axe-hit from Skylgannon, and the terrible tree was no more. A quick search among the tree’s roots turned up some gold, silver and copper pieces, a silver ring, and a dark blue robe [see Addendum, below]. Using Detect Magic, Vincze identified the robe as magical, but couldn’t figure out what sort of robe it was. She then suggested, in both fear and admiration of the rare plant, “Let’s bring a specimen back to Jane! She’ll be sorry she missed this.” And she tucked a branch of the scythe tree into her robe.
The Defenders spent the rest of the day exploring the remainder of the hex, finally bedding down for the night a good mile away from the Blighted Hollow.
The next morning, the group headed back triumphantly to the dryad’s abode on the shores of the River Shrike. She and Falchos greeted them with great enthusiasm, for she had already picked up news of the scythe tree’s demise from the roots and vines that formed a continuous, living net across the floor of the Narlmarches. “Thank you! I am in your debt!” she exclaimed, and put bags of treasure in their hands. “This is all my treasure; it is yours,” she stated. The bags held much gold and silver, and also included some potions, together with six magic tokens. “These little tokens,” she explained to them, “will cause a tree to grow when planted in the ground”. The Defenders, overjoyed with the promise of new trees for Melianse, headed east at once to find the nixie’s grove.
Before leaving, the group asked the dryad whether Queen Nyrissa would be happy to hear of their victory over the scythe tree and its Blighted Hollow. The dryad rebuked them, warning them never to utter Nyrissa’s name. Khrystos shuddered, sensing fear in the faerie’s quivering, dulcet tones.
Melianse was relieved to see the human heroes approach her portion of the river, and was especially relieved once they planted five of the tokens. New trees began to grow immediately, and reached full size in less than a minute. Melianse then released the two loggers whom she’d been keeping captive with her fey charms. “My sisters and I will not forget this,” she said to the humans. “From now on, we will watch this part of the river for you, and alert you to any dangers we perceive.” The group then questioned her about any imminent river-borne dangers—especially any boggard sightings. Melianse thought for a minute before finally divulging that, far upriver, a lone boggard lived in the ruins of a stone building. She explained that he was a hermit, and had nothing to do with other boggards. The rules of Lomindor thanked her for this information, and then took their leave of her. After a short time, the loggers turned north to join the rest of their party.
As the Defenders headed east again, Vincze consulted her astrological calendar and advised the group that their “exploraging time” was growing short: they all needed to return to Lomindor soon, to see how the clearing, improvements and infrastructure-building was proceeding in Nettle’s Rest. “We must get on with the business of running this kingdom,” the diviner advised, and Khrystos nodded. They still, however, had about a week before they needed to return, so they could perhaps do a bit more fieldwork and reconnaissance. They decided to spend their remaining time “exploraging” the two hexes immediately to the east. Vincze decided to have another go with her detect magic cantrip, and successfully identified her newly acquired magic robe as a Robe of Bones. She put it on.
That night, after spending another full day carefully leading their horses across the densely forested southern Narlmarches (and dispatching a pugnacious, wild boar—butchering it afterwards), the group fell asleep quickly. (Exploring ancient woodlands is not easy work!).
Unfortunately, their sleep did not last long. Vincze was just in the middle of a dream (see Vision 9 of Vincze’s Visions) when she awoke to Skylgannon’s whistle, alerting them to the presence of an intruder. The group rose, and did a double-take as they noticed a flaming stone orbiting Skylgannon’s head—what sort of magic item is that, Khrystos wondered. They all grabbed their weapons: who was threatening them this time?, Caspar thought.
A terrifying cackle broke the night: “Look at these people, Cat!”, it said, “Let’s kill them now!” Turning to face the voice, the group spotted an old man in the woods, dressed in tattered rags and robes, standing next to a fierce-looking puma. The two then burst out of the shadows and attacked! A scuffle ensued which left the giant puma sprawled unconscious on the ground, and the ragged man seriously wounded. “You killed Cat! You’ll pay for this!” he shrieked, and ran off bleeding into the woods. The group tried to pursue, but couldn’t find him; he’d vanished without a trace.
Luckily, it was still early, and so the group attempted to get a full nights’ rest by sleeping late the next morning. Everyone except the wizard (who needed more sleep so she could study her spellbook) kept watch in pairs that night, just to be safe! The next morning, the puma (whom they had stabilized before going to sleep) was still unconscious. The Defenders broke camp and made plans for more exploraging.
Reward bequeathed to us from our dryad friend:
3 pieces of amber
Robe of Bones – Vincze has taken charge of this.
42 Copper Pieces
55 Silver Pieces
6 Gold Pieces
Simple Silver Ring, not yet appraised.
Bag of 5 goodberries and 2 potions, 1 scroll, and a wand (which turned out to be of Cure Light Wounds which Khrystos took possession of), as well as 178 more Gold Pieces
Longbow and arrows
We also received 6 small metal tokens in the shapes of trees – 5 were used to regrow Melianse’s felled trees