Under the False Moon

Verse 5

After shaking off the night’s ale, The Order of the Second Wind, with a now healthy Keyleth, set out in Halendos looking for the farmer who brought them into town, and when they did he explained that the local fey were becoming restless, and that in particular the pixies have gone from mischievous to dangerous. The group went off into the forest to find the pixies to see what the problem was. As they left, Keyleth spied a cloaked old woman walking past them. As she looked deeply into Keyleth’s eyes, she took the appearance of a beautiful elven woman. “Find the thrice-twined tree. Only the heart of light can quench the heart of darkness.” She then walked off, leaving Keyleth confused.

The pixies were flitting around a large, dying oak and upon seeing The Order of the Second Wind, they rushed to them and began “playing.” They mussed hair, pulled on clothes, and disconnected valves from Rune. Kava, unamused, brandished her mace. The pixies said that they wanted to be played with, and they demanded that Our Heroes play with them. When they refused, the pixies told them they could play with Little Boy, a child Ogre. Little Boy did not know Giant like most Ogres, and the pixies explained that they had found him when he was a baby and raised him. He was dressed in a young page’s clothes (snugly fitting, of course) and had black greasy, but combed, hair.

Little Boy lifted his tree trunk of a club and yelled “YAY! SMASH!” and slammed his club into Rune. Gaius did most of the work, taking advantage of a high berm to stick arrow after arrow into Little Boy. Rune was the one to end the battle, though, forcing Little Boy to surrender after he had battered Kava and Rune handily. The pixies were thrilled with Rune’s performance, and bestowed a mystic shield that surrounded his body, giving him quicker reflexes, stronger will, and an increased feeling of fortitude.

The pixies explained that there had been a temple appearing on certain days ever since the forest returned to its previous lushness. The temple seemed ethereal, being there but not completely being there. The temple only came at midnight and left at first light. The guardian of the forest, Nimiwi, had ventured into it three days ago, and had not returned. She is mystically connected to the tree, and as she dies, so does the tree. Our Heroes looked to notice that the tree had one leaf remaining on its branches.

The Order of the Second Wind trudged toward the hilltop where the pixies said the temple appeared on certain nights. As they approached, the temple phased in and out of their view. When they were about 100 feet from the temple, a large slug, two wolves, and four polecats appeared, ready to guard the temple. The wolves and polecats rushed Our Heroes, and boxed them in, forcing melee combat. Though no one was in immediate danger during the fight, it forced The Order of the Second Wind to focus on attacking at close range, and it was not always pretty. At one point, Keyleth directed her cutting words toward a wolf and hit Kava instead. One polecat stayed in a tree, completely obscured by Our Heroes. After Rune and Kava blindly swung at the creature, Gaius closed his eyes and loosed an arrow straight through the polecat’s heart. After getting four potions from the saddlebag on the large slug, The Order of the Second Wind entered the temple.

The temple was more grown that built, made of intertwining trees and branches, with a leafed roof and a floor made of roots. As our heroes moved down a long hallway, Rune stepped on a false-floor trap, but he was quick enough to take a step back. From the pit hundreds of iridescent beetles poured and swarmed. Our heroes made quick work of the beetles, with Rune being the only one who had any trouble, as the beetles’ dominating beauty charmed him into the pit twice. After the last beetle was squished, Our Heroes found the body of a man wearing clothing that matched the raider who had left the makeshift tavern near Regdar’s house. Gaius could see the spirit of the man swirling around the body, begging to be released. Gaius swiped at it with his sword, but it did not affect the spirit. He moaned for rest by Pegasus. Keyleth, heeding Gaius’s instructions, used her holy symbol to lay the spirit to rest. The dicest dragon ever blessed Keyleth, giving her a divine boon.

Walking deeper into the temple, The Order of the Second Wind came upon a small spring. Its waters invigorated the group, and at the end of the spring they saw the same beautiful woman they saw in town. It was Nimiwi, and she explained that a cult bearing spider markings were trying to invoke a dark ritual, and they had corrupted the temple and the surrounding forestland. At the heart of the temple was a large altar, created by three trees intertwining around each other. The only way to purify it was through a crystal that would be imbued by Nimiwi’s remaining life force. After giving them the crystal, The Order of the Second Wind made their way into the main atrium.

Inside, they observed the dark ritual taking place. Two elven archers and two guard drakes guarded the six cloaked figures as they chanted archaic and dark intonations. One, elaborately dressed in robes depicting spiders eating various aspects of existence, held a large tome and was closest to the tree. He looked at the group and yelled “I am Berrian Stormrage, this ritual must not be stopped! Yield or die!” At that provocation, Our Heroes began battle. At first, the battle seemed to be on Berrian’s side, as a guard drake buried its teeth into Rune and numerous cult members struck at Rune and Kava. Gaius was quick to dispatch the lesser cultists, but had trouble with Berrian’s attacks, which blinded and teleported him in the guard drake’s midst. Keyleth supported from afar, attacking when she was able, and Kava’s Dragon Breath bathed the cultists in poisonous sludge. Her vigor was ill-gotten, though, as an archer struck her down. Rune struck at the guard drakes, and Gaius focused his attacks on his Quarry. Keyleth healed Kava just in time for her to rush Berrian, who was all that remained after a short time. Berrian was a powerful wizard, but his charms were not enough to defeat The Order of the Second Wind alone. He was able to knock Kava unconscious before he was felled.

Gaius’s performance in the temple earned him the Raven Queen’s favor, and he received two boons from her. Kava gained a bag of holding, which she quickly stowed away. The cultists had amassed a large amount of gold, which the group separated and hoarded. As Rune plunged the crystal containing Nimiwi’s life force into the tree, Gaius found a note describing the large tome that Berrian was reading. It was the Tome of Twilight Shadows, and it contained a dark ritual to bring Lolth to Hortia. The tome was only partially translated, and it was protected by many ancient charms and defenses. Gaius stowed the book and gave the note for his companions to read.

As they left the temple dawn’s first light struck the hillside, spiriting away the temple. The pixies were there to greet Our Heroes, thanking them for returning the forest to its former safety. They could feel the corruption leaving the area. All was not well, though, as a single spider crawled up the branches of a giant oak and rode its single leaf down to the ground.

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