Showdown at Stalkbrow
Contributed by Martin
The party managed to destroy the horde of Wyrds with help from Adriana and Drewen. Lana summoned a sixteen foot tall Earth Elemental just in time for the last Wyrd to be destroyed. She found that the Elemental REALLY resented being ripped from its home plane and thus its presence fed the spirit. She also found that it wasn't fully under her control and could not be dismissed since its animosity for her bound it to Stalkbrow. She struggled and eventually brought it under control but by this time the spirit had decided to give Betula "a fitting death for a dryad" and merged with the few trees on the hilltop to create two 'killer copses'. Branches became tendrils, boles became chomping maws and so on. Karnus Fireballed half of the Killer Trees and the Elemental was set to tearing up the others. Given that its power is greatly increased when facing earthbound opponents, the trees were soon uprooted and reduced to not much more than Killer Kindling (well, just kindling really). This came as a relief to Drewen who could now stop fighting with his shortsword and pick up his hammer again. Adriana got badly chomped by one tree. Vasily made the best possible use of his healing abilities but Adriana remained in pretty bad shape.
The spirit was beginning to get truly vexed by this stage. It revealed that the ill fated elves had been led by two others. Powerful though they were these two elves had turned against one another and had each perished on the other's blade. The evil of Stalkbrow inhabited their bodies turning them into Greater Wyrds (similar but tougher than standard Wyrds, scarier and wielding green orbs instead of red). Vasily stepped forward in a bold attempt to turn the beings but failed, leading to the assumption that these undead must be as strong as vampires.
Naturally this failure shook both Vasily and the rest of the party (read mass failings of saving throws and consequent combat penalties for the Wyrds' Fear effect). Even Drewen was reduced to a mere +5 modifier to hit and +1 to damage. Best line of the evening: "I don't like these things, I can't hit them automatically" after a score of AC2 was pronounced to be a miss.
The Wyrds' orbs turned out to have a paralyzing effect in addition to hurting real bad. Karnus was only saved thanks to a Mirror Image. He was happy to contribute a Magic Missile spell to the battle. Owing to paralysis or being in a really bad way everyone was soon unfit for further fighting. Only Lana and Drewen were left to protect Betula. Lana was hovering a hundred feet up in the air. The Elemental was gone (the evil spirit had consumed the animating force reducing the earthen giant to rubble) and even Lana was reluctant to enter melee with these particular opponents. She therefore used a Lightning Bolt and a charge from her handy Wand of Fireballs to eradicate one Wyrd whilst Drewen finished off the other.
The spirit appeared again and tried taunting Lana and Drewen. This didn't appear to go well so it said "I see where I have been going wrong. You cannot hate the trees and the Wyrds you pity. I must make you feel hatred as you did for the Wood Imps." It then jerked Threy's brother into life and dangling him from chains of shadow like a puppet it made him tell of how he had followed the party from Desnae, attacking the first Treant they had met, poisoning the unicorns' watering hole, freeing the dwarven captive (a member of the Thorns who was busy cleaning up the results of their most recent prank) and making it look like the party was responsible for this.
"You must hate him," said the spirit, "you MUST hate me". Lana was less than convinced by this display. "I have no hatred for you," she responded. "You are like a snake eating its own tail. Empty. If anything, I have only pity for you."
The spirit was enraged by this. Wisdom rolls determined that although Drewen was not as able to find such calm and compassion (he is a Dwarf after all) Lana at least was genuine in her expression of pity (she is Lana after all).
In fury the spirit cried, "you cannot pity me! You must hate me! I HATE YOU!"
With these words it commiteed a fatal mistake. The evil nature of Stalkbrow had given birth to an intelligent, sentient manifestation of resentment. It had no emotions of its own but created a prison whereby others would be held captive by their own petty jealousies. In feeding on these captives the spirit became too like them until it was capable of resenting not only Betula's presence but the entire party's. It thoroughly hated Lana and was thus drawn screaming in protest into the black vortex which it had created. Like a snake eating its own tail.
Threy's brother was pulled in after the spirit. What becomes of him shall be another story. Lana approached the vortex and called to Valen, encouraging him to set himself free. Focussing on his wish to return home and his more positive feelings for his family the young lord was able to reach out a hand and be pulled free of the vortex. Shaken, half-dead, he stumbled away as it imploded. Following Valen's example the other prisoners were able to escape at the last moment and appeared at various points over the hillside. They included Damareen of the Chossum clan, four Longrunners and two Feadils, all held captive by their own personal demons.
All the elves were weak but Damareen was able to offer thanks and others mumbled appreciatively before collapsing. Enough time passed for everyone to get their breath back and for paralysis to wear off. Damareen thanked the party profusely and then with fear in her voice said, "we will need rest and healing. We have all been crippled by our ordeal but THEY are as strong as ever. THEY have fed off it."
"Who?" asked Lana, not unreasonably. Damareen gestured weakly to a group of around two dozen elves advancing slowly out of the shadows. The moonlight gleamed coldly on their pale skin and white hair. They stared at the party with large blue eyes which were impassive and impossible to read.
"THEM," gasped Damareen. "The Shadow Elves!"
Thus we left play with the exhausted party facing down the fresh-looking Shadow Elves, the spirit's primary food source, since they "so bitterly resented their surface cousins." Fun, fun, fun.
Read the next instalment - Flight from Stalkbrow
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