Dramatis Personae: Calla, Keth, Sorrel (and Iriandel)
Source: “DDEX3-7 Herald of the Moon”, Princes of the Apocalypse
It took Keluak some time to come to terms with his new identity. He spent much of that time hiding in a cave near the wood elf settlement the others were staying in. A half-orc, of all things! What a cruel twist of fate. Now he could never go home. He needed a new name. “Sorrel” would do. He needed to practice swinging his axe lower, since he was no longer so short. He hated how everyone tried not to laugh when they saw him. Those elves were doing it on purpose. Calla and Keth too. Everyone seemed to think his predicament was hilarious! Everyone except him. But he’d show them. He’d get them back somehow. Oh, how he would get them back!
A day or two later, Iriandel the unicorn gathered his friends together and told them that he was still working on reestablishing his connection with the forest. During his centuries of exile, the elves had dwindled in number and the heart of the forest had grown wild and dark. He wished to seek out an old friend of his, a treant name Brightleaf, who resided deep in the woods. The elves didn’t go that way anymore, tangled as it was with brambles and thorns. He feared the worst.
The PCs agreed to accompany the unicorn on the three-day journey into the Heartwood. The outer rim of the forest consisted mostly of widely-spaced pines, with a soft carpet of pine needles underfoot. They spent their first night on the edge of the Heartwood, a section of older forest with a greater variety of trees packed more closely together. The PCs all had unsettling dreams that night, and when Sorrel awoke, he felt a strange urge to eat dirt. Keth and Calla teased him a bit, much to Sorrel’s annoyance.
The next day saw them penetrating the gloom of the Heartwood. Iriandel was dismayed to see that this section of the forest was indeed overgrown with brambles. After several hours of slogging their way through the thicket, they came across a small glade in the middle of which was a harrowing sight: a dead stag whose alabaster fur was matted with blood. The body of an elf lay crushed underneath. Before they could investigate any further, the ground rumbled as a mighty hill giant and its giant boar companion emerged into the clearing. The giant bellowed and raised its huge club threateningly.
Iriandel implored the PCs to take out the giant but leave the boar to him. The giant proved a formidable opponent, and Iriandel was forced to dash in and heal Sorrel several times with the magic of his horn. Outnumbered, the giant eventually fell to the ground, at which point Iriandel used his magic to calm the boar and send it trotting back into the forest. The giant had a sack. Inside, the PCs found a moldy wheel of cheese, a giant-sized waterskin (which Keth claimed for himself), and a box of turquoise animal figurines that looked quite valuable, although Keth accidentally broke one of them.
The PCs turned their attention back to the dead stag and elf. It looked like they had been crushed by a big rock, perhaps thrown by the giant. The elf had a magic potion and a delicate magic scroll inscribed on a leaf, which Calla spirited away before Keth could accidentally break it too. It turned out to be a charm to protect against plant monsters. At Iriandel’s urging, the PCs spent a bit of time building a temporary grave for the elf and his mount before pressing on.
The next morning, Calla woke up with an irresistible urge to eat the moldy cheesy, which she promptly confiscated from Keth, who was incapacitated by uncontrollable fits of laughter, screaming, and weeping. This time it was Sorrel’s turn to tease the others. Iriandel, however, was becoming more and more concerned with his companions’ behavior. Something was seriously wrong in his forest! The sooner he got to the bottom of it, the better!
Eventually the companions came to a grove surrounded by a wall of thorns. In the middle of the grove stood a solitary elm. Iriandel teleported himself and the three PCs into the middle of the grove to avoid the thorns. The unicorn strode forward and called out to Brightleaf. The ancient treant began to stir. Over the course of the painfully slow conversation that ensued, it became glaringly obvious that Brightleaf was completely mad. And the source of that madness was most likely the four vine blights crawling around in his branches, corrupting the treant’s mind with mad whispers.
Brightleaf was adamant that there was nothing wrong with his forest. In fact, he proclaimed himself to be the god of the forest. And thanks to the machinations of the blights, he didn’t appear to recognize Iriandel as his old friend but rather regarded him as a rival come to usurp his position. With no time to lose, Calla whipped out her tree feather token and indicated for Iriandel to come forward with her as she called out to Brightleaf that the unicorn had come with a gift.
As she placed the token on the ground, a mighty oak sprang up in front of Brightleaf. This gesture may have worked, had Sorrel not decided to grab hold of one of the oak’s branches and ride it up as it soared to its full height of 60 feet. The sight of a heavily armed and armored half-orc grinning at him from only a few feet away was enough to get Brightleaf’s hackles up. He uttered some words of primeval magic and caused both the oak in front of him and another tree in his glade to animate. Ordering them to destroy the intruders, he then picked up a rock and hurled it at the unicorn, who was nearly crushed by the blow.
Sorrel tried to leap from the animated oak into Brightleaf’s branches, with the intention of attacking the vine blights, but all he succeeded in doing was falling out of the tree. At this point, the vine blights dropped out of Brightleaf’s branches and used their own magic to cover the ground around the treant with grasping vines. They then made to flee into the forest.
Fortunately, the PCs managed to keep the animated trees occupied so that Iriandel could rush in and break the enchantment on his friend. Although Brightleaf tried to avoid the touch of the unicorn’s horn, he was too slow and soon found his mind clearing. With Iriandel and Brightleaf’s permission, Calla gleefully turned the fleeing vine blights to ash.
At last Brightleaf remembered his old friend the unicorn. He apologized to the companions and thanked them for clearing his mind. He promised Iriandel that he would work hard to help restore the forest to its former glory. Brightleaf then invited everyone to stay the night in his grove. The PCs listened enthralled as the treant and the unicorn traded tales from the olden days, when the two shared their guardianship of the forest.
In the morning, Calla awoke feeling absolutely certain that she needed to get as far away from Brightleaf as she possibly could. Sorrel, as well, seemed to be suffering from a case of extreme paranoia, although it was unclear whether this was the forest’s doing or merely some lingering existential dread from his transformation. Nevertheless, the companions took their leave of Brightleaf and hurried back through the woods towards the elven settlement.
Though they managed to resist the effects of the disturbing dreams during the first night of the journey, on the second night it was all just too much for their mortal minds to take. Calla soon found that she could no longer take anything seriously. The more serious the situation, the funnier she found it to be. Meanwhile, Keth came to the conclusion that the only way for him to be able to stay sane was to be drunk all the time. Last but not least, Sorrel’s paranoia took root as he became convinced that everyone was judging him all the time. Clearly curing Brightleaf had not had an immediate effect on the state of the forest. Perhaps something else was the cause and Brightleaf merely another victim? Iriandel was troubled, but he said nothing to his friends.
Back at the elven settlement, the PCs were paid a visit by Hroom*. The treant was overjoyed to hear the good news about Brightleaf. He also wanted his friends to try a special concoction he’d been brewing. They all agreed to have a taste and found it surprisingly invigorating and nourishing. In fact, it caused them all to grow taller! It had the most profound effect on Calla, who grew to be 6 feet tall, while Sorrel further increased his newfound height to a total of 6 feet 5 inches! Keth felt like something was missing, so he acquired some elven wine and mixed it into the brew. This caused him to shoot up to 6 feet 6 inches, at which point he decided all was right with the world, as he was once again taller than Keluak (now Sorrel). Hroom gave the PCs five vials of his brew to take home with them.
On the way home to Larchwood, the PCs stopped in Pebbleton. Keth offered one vial of Hroom’s brew to the mayor, who quite liked the taste and wanted to know where he could get more. This was exactly what Keth had hoped, as he was aiming to improve the relationship between the people of Pebbleton and the creatures of the neighboring forest. The PCs then retired to the common hall, where Keth struck up a rousing drinking song while Calla challenged Sorrel to a drinking contest and won, much to the warrior’s chagrin!
Before leaving Pebbleton, the PCs decided to have a bit of a wander around in the countryside. While exploring, they came across a pair of hill giants sitting outside a cave, playing some sort of game using different colored rocks. One of them appeared to be getting rather frustrated. Sorrel’s blind and unreasoning hatred of his enemies and Keth’s obsession with winning glory in battle drove the two half-orcs to charge in amongst the boulders, while Calla watched with amusement from a safe distance.
The PCs were brought to an abrupt halt, however, when the frustrated giant pointed at them and declared that he wanted to play the game with them instead of the other giant. As the battlelust cleared from Keth’s eyes, he sat down on the other side of the game board and listened as the giant explained the rules. They were to play best two out of three and bet 100 sp each time. Keth won twice in a row. The giant looked like he was going to explode but he managed to hold his temper and declared that he would play the other half-orc now. He insisted that Sorrel bet his magic axe, and in return, he pulled a large amethyst out of his sack and placed it next to the axe. Sorrel proceeded to also win twice in a row, which was too much for the giant. He grabbed at the axe, but Sorrel was too quick, so he went for his club instead.
Chuckling to herself at the unsurprising result, Calla decided to launch a fireball into the midst of the boulders. But she was laughing too hard and let her companions get caught in the blast. One of the giants moved away and started hurling rocks, while the other played whack-a-mole with his club. It was a hard battle, but the PCs were ultimately victorious and the two giants ultimately dead. A thorough search of their sacks and reeking cave lair produced lots of coins (including some rare gold and platinum pieces!) and that beautiful amethyst.
The PCs decided to spend the night in the giants’ cave, where Calla challenged Keth to a drinking contest. She won again, much to the cleric’s chagrin. In the morning, they headed back to Pebbleton to do some more drinking in anticipation of the journey back to Larchwood.
*If you recall, Hroom sprang from a magic bean that the PCs planted in the middle of Larchwood’s market square. Keth later took him to see Iriandel, thinking the two creatures might become friends. Hroom has been hanging out in Iriandel’s neck of the woods ever since.