The Happy Muggers

Session 46: The Council Swings
In which the drow are found, a priestess is captured, the vote swings our way, and… what was that noise?

Sartian proved little help. He had no more information than we did, and so we set out into the wilderness looking for the Drow we knew were haunting the rode between Brindol and Astrazalian. We kept out of sight, and within a few days were peering through the underbrush at their camp just as night fell. Two hulking verbeeg stood by the fire, four tents door-out around them. D’cafnaet’d scouted out the tents, looking for more definitive proof than a couple of mercenaries, and when he found a drow priestess he attacked, surprising her, the verbeeg, and the rest of us, who all leapt into action. The priestess crumpled to the floor just moments before D’cafnaet’d did, she from his blows and he from the rush of the two verbeeg. Another pair of the green giants had appeared from the other tents, keeping us busy and unable to help our fallen friend (despite your warning, Mother, I can find no more suitable honorific for D’cafnaet’d). I know that he is a fighter, but I still worried about him, knowing that the longer we were tangled away from him the lower his chance of survival crept. The fight played out around the bonfire, with both sides pushing and throwing the other through the flames, but in the end our side was triumphant. D’cafnaet’d, thankfully, had held on. We gathered he and the priestess up and left the area as quick as possible, sure that more Underworlders would appear if we lingered.

When we woke her she was as unhelpful as one expects a captured drow leader to be, claiming to be an innocent. Knowing what fate would befall her if we took her to Sartian, we instead took her to Lord Wedge, and invited Lady Tam to verify the danger, and with her vote we convinced Lady Viell that the time was right for a motion to be made. She called the council together, and we’ve waited three days. They’ve just gavelled the meeting to order, and… what was that loud crashing noise from outside?

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Harrowing
In which Leeloo finds herself in a dark situation.

The darkness didn’t stop when she opened her eyes. She tried to sit up, but found there was no supportive ground beneath her. She wasn’t falling per se– there was no wind rushing past– there was a simple lack of ground. She stretched out her arms in all directions, tired and bruised muscles screaming at her as she did so, but she felt nothingness all about. She reached down to find her wand, hoping to lob some fire into the blackness, and found it as absent as the ground. She found, in fact, that everything was absent: her wand, her rations, her armor, her clothes. She patted her hands along her body, finding there only the many lacerations she had received in the battle.

The battle.

It had not gone well. The Whisper had whipped its tendrils about, knocking her down and about. She severed a few, and got a few good whacks at the thing proper, but it was too fast for her. It seemed to know her thoughts, to expect her next action before even she did. It had been inside her head so long it probably did. She had tried to act on impulse, remembering those few long-ago sword fighting lessons her father had given her out in the forest, hitting tree branches. But the Whisper, too, remembered at least one side of that memory, and quite likely both. It had spun her around and hit her from behind. That was the last thing she could recall. She remembered falling, the world slipping from her consciousness, her fingers slipping from her father’s sword.

She saw a glint in the distance. It was a tiny amount of light but in this perfect darkness it was as blinding as the sun. She twisted her body around and faced it, saw it again, and began to swim in the inky void, hoping that she might make some progress toward it that way. She struggled, pulling at the nothing for a dozen minutes, but seemed no closer. She blinked, took a deep breath, and peered at the thing, narrowing her focus on it. It, too seemed to be twisting in the darkness, the luminescence growing and waning as it did so. She reached out, her fingers eclipsing its light, and then, suddenly, the light was speeding toward her, its speck becoming a shaft, its shape becoming clear.

She grabbed her fathers sword, spun about with the force of it, and sliced into the darkness. She heard the scream, and the void churned, and suddenly she was falling. She tumbled onto hard rock, rolled, stood, and looked around.

The Island was gone. The Whisper was gone. There was only rough-hewn stone, a low stalactite-studded ceiling, and a dim glow coming from far ahead. She clutched the sword, wished she had recovered more of her belongings, and moved toward the light.

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Gods are with us

At first sleep evaded her no matter how grueling the day that she just had. Ronstien was puzzled by this but she did not want to alarm her companions.

Soon it became evident that the lack of sleep was due to unnatural causes. No matter how little sleep she receive it never seemed to effect her performance in protecting her comrades. Eventual the silence that accompanied the sleepless nights turned into a hum which in-turn broke into music.

Hymns of heavenly flutes and harps. Sleep had returned as if the splendid music was rocking her to sleep. When she woke she was no longer the same person. She knew that she had been chooses by the Gods to complete there bidding in smiting the dark forces that await in the shadows to harm the weak. No longer could she leave the retribution to others, she must take matters into her own hands. Into the front lines where her enemies could not hide in the shadows from the Path of Light.

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Session 40: Reuniting Fathers and Daughters
In which we finally see a father and daughter reunited, but not the ones we've known this whole time.

I do apologize, mother, for the nearly illegible penmanship of the first part of this letter; it was written on horseback while quite tired. The latter half returns to the letters you did well to teach me, and if I had but more time I would have rewritten the former half, but matters are, as always, pressing.

Before the horseback riding, of course, we were in a fungus-filled cave, having just fought some fungus-filled apparitions. Beyond that antechamber, we found long passage, which continued a while until it intersected with a stream of sludge, slithering down from Ioun-knows-where and beneath a rickety looking bridge, beyond which the cave opened out to a wider chamber, in which stood four figures. In front were a mass of ooze and eyes that looked and smelled dangerous, and a demon that looked ready to cause all kinds of trouble. The smallest figure was chained to a spidery-looking altar in the back: the kidnapped eladrin girl appeared to be about 12, which brought back some memories for me, let me assure you. Beside her stood a drow woman, aiming cool eyes and cruel smile in our direction.

I asked for the girl, the drow gave some threats, and I assured her that we would be happy to leave her be, but when her eyes darted to her henchmen we all knew what was what. Lady Ronstien led the charge, and was soon enough joined by the two big lugs, and soon after that by the rest of us. Kynun stood athwart the passage and held everyone together, dispatching the little bits of sludge that slithered out of the river. Lady Ronstien barely moved after the initial charge, though: she had put herself out front and established the line, and in return the full fury of these beasts focused on her. A particular problem was the drow, who sat behind the main line and rained hideous things upon us from afar. So as soon as the ooze fell, I split the world apart and allowed our lot to jump across the room, surrounding the wench and pummeling her quite well before the other baddies could catch up. As we did our pummeling, though, the drow exterior chipped away and her true form was revealed: a spawn of Juiblex, which fit with our fungal surroundings, but would make this story less powerful as a symbol of the drow threat to Astrazalian. When D’cafnaet’d sliced the not-drow down and the demon began aiming at the captive girl, though, we shifted tactics and pushed him away from his quarry, again offering to let him leave, but in the end he took the pain and the failure of banishment from our plane.

Jezebel, as the girl is called, rode back to Astrazalian with me, and her father’s embrace stung me as I watched. There are always more urgent matters, but Father is never far from my mind.

Our presently more urgent matter was that of the two more votes we yet needed to move Astrazalian to aid the war effort. Lady Vell was met, and her fishing expeditions for glory or favors was noted before we left. Lady Tam also granted us an audience, but demanded proof–dismissing Gaould’s kidnapped daughter as an attack only on his drow-hating house and not an assault on the city proper. We– and here I mean, mostly, D’cafnaet’d– considered beating some sense into a few of the other councilors, but cooler heads prevailed and we decided to keep that tactic as our backup should we be unable to find some proof for Ladies Tam and Vell; we have decided to search this city’s underbelly to find the inevitable signs of foul play.

And no sooner than we’d decided upon this course than we ran into an old friend of ours from Overlook, one well traveled on this course, the spymaster Sartian. Last time we met him he was willing to loosen a few rules to get what he needed, but seemed always to be aiming at the right targets. We shall see if his presence here in a a city not his own will keep his intent as pure.

And if it proves less, we might have found our first agent of the drow.

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Session 39: Together Again
In which old friends and old enemies return, horses are purchased, a ride through the swamp ensues, aloof eladrin are not roused, and a kidnapping is uncovered.

I was waiting for them on the outskirts of town for two weeks before they straggled in, looking tired. I’ve not been to the Garden of Graves but I have heard tale of its terrors, and after seeing their bruises and hearing their stories I have little wish to schedule a visit. I had arranged comfortable rooms in the little Feywild town– paid with the blood of a witch who’d been terrorizing the locals for years– and after a good rest the lot of them were in better spirits. I dutifully reported on the news of Gontiago that the witch had spilled before I ended her reign, and we all bid adieu to Monty the next morning as he went off chasing his brother and inheritance.

The rest of us took a leap through the vortex the town council summoned, and were deposited again on the dirt outside Lindestra Manor’s gate, which creaked in the breeze. The place looked terrible, and the last time I had seen it there were zombies milling about the courtyard. We wandered through the grounds and surmised that it had been almost year since the rest of them had left, which was less of a shock to them after meeting me and hearing of two decades worth of stories. The Manor had been searched at some point (brave souls!), but in the Great Hall we found a note that looked only a few weeks old, asking for our immediate conference with the Brindol town council on urgent matters about the ongoing war. This all made little sense to our ears, but we dutifully locked the Manor up– a few more weeks neglect would do little harm– and began the trek to the city where I first met these comrades of mine.

It, too, looked terrible. The outer wall had been breached and repaired in a dozen places, a great many of the buildings had been burned or otherwise destroyed, and the rubble filled the streets. Even our namesake, the Happy Mug itself, was but a pile of splinters and thatching. The council, down a few members fallen in the months since we last saw them, explained the situation: Lord Pep’Ci and his drow armies, after the temporary setback dealt them by my friends in the mine, had surged to the surface and struck from everywhere at once. Overlook was laid siege, Brindol was broken, and many of the surrounding hamlets razed entirely. Astrazalian had been asked for help, but the ambassador never returned. It was now time to ask again, but this time, to ensure the safe arrival of the delegation, our aid had been requested. With no reason to refuse, we agreed to take the single diplomat Brindol still had and shepherd her to the Eladrin city. We bought horses for the occasion.

Two days out we came across a wagon upended off the side of the road, drow bolts littering its exterior. We dropped off the main thoroughfare and made our way through the swampland, the ugly details of which I will not put down here for fear I might recall them too vividly. Suffice to say that we arrived at the gates of Astrazalian not too much the worse for wear, but were surprised by the open gates of the city. Clearly the Eladrin either did not know of the Drow threat, or they were cavalierly unconcerned by it.

Our audience with Lord Hieronymus Wedge confirmed it to be the latter: the council of twelve lords was eight-to-four against joining the battle, for reasons as varied as disinterest, racism, or concern with other threats. We resolved to try our hand at shifting that ratio, and our first target was the drow-hating Lord Gaould, in a meeting ostensibly to ask for information regarding my ongoing search for father (I have met a few here who knew him, and many more who knew of him, but no one has seen him for many years).

Lord Gaould‘s guards were hesitant to let D’cafnaet’d in, but I managed to sway their opinion, and in return it seemed that D’cafnaet’d got the honored guest treatment. When Gaould arrived, though, it quickly became evident that he assumed that D’cafnaet’d was the latest in a series of emissaries from the Drow, who had Gaould’s daughter held captive in the caves to the east of the city. We swore the lord to secrecy and set out immediately, hoping a little excursion might win us a vote. The cave was simple enough to find, but inside we found it infested with a sort of demonic fungus that had wrapped itself around fallen skeletons, animating the corpses and attempting to keep us out. We are a very determined bunch, though, so the fungus merely slowed us down.

Speaking of slowing us down, I fear that this letter is now in danger of doing so, so I will send it on to you and continue on our way. I am sure that you are liking the slowed pace of my letters now that we are passing through time at mostly the same pace. I do apologize for passing so close to home without stopping by to see you or the twins, but I hope that this missive finds you safe and happy, and I promise to make time to visit when we return.

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Kenosis

Leeloo climbed out of the fountain and gazed around at the cavernous room it had led her to. The massive spiral staircase led up into the murky darkness, as did the six huge columns that presumably held aloft some unseen ceiling. Decades of dead leaves covered the floor, blown in through the arched doorways on either side, which led out into gardens thick and overgrown with the neglect of many years. The smell was awful.

Outside the smell was better, but the disconcerting torn sky of the island made it no more comfortable. She wandered the grounds for a while, past muck pits that may once have been streams and tangles whose ancestors were topiaries. She came across a small hut, and when she opened the door she knew that this had been her father’s place; it still held his feel and his aura that she recognized from so long ago. She searched the place, and after an uneventful hour she found a leather-bound book hiding under a baseboard, and inside was the story of how Teagan and his fellows had stumbled upon this place, and how he had come into the service of this island’s master. Leeloo read it eagerly, then read again; Veleris’ library had mentioned the adventure and she had spent a month and many favors finding the Crystal Cave itself, but this was a complete account, even including the black turn at the end when the two old friends had contracted themselves to Soryth.

But there it ended. What had happened to the Island between that point, when everything was within the Dream Witch’s power, and this, when the mighty island lay in ruins, its very essence being eaten away by the tides of the Astral Sea? She sat in a room that echoed her father, so he had to have spent considerable time here, working for Soryth. But he had also worked for Shephatiah; were those two fey one and the same? Was Shephatiah merely the shell of Soryth after her “stories” were stripped from her? Or had Teagan served two dark fey? The timelines didn’t make sense; Shephatiah had claimed his service began four years before her death, but she had hardly been a reliable narrator.

She spun around when she heard the crackle, her rod flaring with eldritch energy as she let a bolt fly. The dark cloud that hovered chest-high behind her merely swallowed it up, the light eclipsed by the darkness. She stepped back, and then heard the Whisper. It was laughing.

“you cannot use the powers i provide against me and expect them to work, my dear.”

Leeloo narrowed her eyes. She had never seen this thing before in her life; now it was claiming her powers?

More laughing. “i see you do not understand, and i should own that, for i have not made it easy to understand, since i have long used many a subordinate in my dealings with you, lest you discover the truth too early, but if you have come this far it will soon be time for you to come a bit farther, and now is the time that you should know in whose debt you find yourself.” The cloud flashed, like lightning in a rainy night sky.

Leeloo peered into the thing, but it just billowed and hung in the air. Years ago she had accepted a deal with the animals of the Witchwood, but she had long since discovered that the animals had less power than she did. Her power had to come from elsewhere, and this thing before may indeed have been her unseen benefactor all along. “If I am in your debt, I would of course appreciate to know my master’s name.”

The cloud undulated. “you already know, of course; you have suspected all along that you knew, even the day you spoke to r’kardn and recited the old words and couldn’t help but wonder”

Leeloo’s eyes were wide. It couldn’t be. “Father?” She said. The cloud hung there; the Whisper did not speak. Her mind felt like it was collapsing in on itself; of course her father would give her aid when she required it, but why had he not spoken to her before this? And then it clicked: this was a trick. She blinked, realizing as she did that her face was streaked with tears, and then saw before her not a cloud but a cloaked figure, frail and thin, eaten by time as the rest of the Island had been. Like the room it echoed her father, but she could not tell if it was him, had a strong connection to him, or perhaps was some arcane shadow of him. But she could certainly see the fiery green tendrils arching out of the figure and around the room, the same fiery green glow that she knew so well, having conjured it so many times. This thing may or may not not be her father, but it was telling the truth that it had leant her its powers.

Her rod clattered as it hit the ground, and her father’s sword made a metallic swish as she drew it from its scabbard. “I have left my home in search of knowledge, and you will either help me attain it without further lies, or our association ends this very day.”

The Whisper laughed again, and now Leeloo could see the figure before her shudder as it did so. “the little one thinks herself more capable than she is, and requires a lesson in gratitude, which she shall receive if she persists in this foolish endeavor”

The tendrils were writhing away from her, and Leeloo could feel herself being emptied out. As each bond slithered off she felt the world close in on her, this room grow more dangerous, and the figure before her looked less and less trial and more and more like what she felt like on the inside. She swallowed hard as another tendril retracted, and she almost dropped the sword from her hand at the pain of the separation. The cloak shifted ever so slightly, and beneath the cowl Leeloo saw a thin grin spread over thin lips. The last of the tendrils exited, and Leeloo stood, all alone, before the Whisper.

She charged.

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Flashback Session 6: Showdown
Wherein it all ends and begins anew.

The gates of the Spiral Palace, easing open with a gliding motion at the faintest wind, are slightly more trouble to bypass than the guards who had flanked it, and though the formal garden within hold a multitude of places to hide, planning an attack on any interlopers, no such attack is made and we find ourselves opening the doors of the impressive building just as a magical device, its purpose clearly (to your humble narrator’s trained eye) some sort of transportation, glimmers before us and deposits a large, wingéd beastly thing, who though he looks nothing like himself straightaway self-identifies as Kalbon, whereupon I attempt a charade of offering our services to him and his allies, they being the new and likely long-term power on the island, and though he seems interested in the offer he asks a few too many questions and we instead must turn our trick into a surprise, which goes badly the moment a sword is drawn, as the very spirals of the palace leap from their foundations, swing too quickly to be believed, and drive little Lulu into the tile flooring, leaving nothing behind but a stain on the floor and a rage in the eye of Saya, the now-departed fairy’s blood sister, who in an uncharacteristic fit of good sense runs not at the perpetrators of the foul deed but at the master of the house, drawing her sword across the scaly skin and quickly sheathing it again in hopes that the spirals might not be disturbed by her if she does so, a trick which seems to work well enough, the spirals settling back into their edifices as the rest of the party scatters away from them, following her lead with quick strikes on the demonic form Kalbon has assumed, which goes as well as can be expected but does little to address the loss of our comrade, even as it hastens and then accomplishes the loss of Kalbon.

After ensuring that there was truly no hope of a recovery for Lulu, and after assessing the benefits of a continued assault versus a renewed attack another day, it is decided that we should make the passage through the portal that Kalbon has used, KD leading (as he always does) the charge into the danger, which is, when we emerge, slowly descending a vast crystal staircase, clothed in the borrowed skin of Caerwyn, though we all know her truly to be Soryth, her beauty stolen from the exhausted body of Julianna, who lays strewn across a settee in the corner, looking quite the worse for the encounter, which state will not be improved when she discovers that her love is dead, if she does not know already based on the state of the hag, who smiles at us with stolen teeth as she beckons two xivorts out of the shadows and toward us, which only serves to push KD into action, and before a blink he is at her throat, his focused sword drawing blood– stolen or not I have no idea– which sprays across the marble floors just as Saya follows along, her sword finding the perfect opening and digging deep into borrowed flesh, but then those stolen teeth smile again, and Soryth is suddenly between us all, and KD’s sword flashes and Saya’s sword rings out and we are all compelled– told– forced by the True Ruler of the Island to lash out at those who intrude upon her domain, and the blood on the marble is mine, now, and KD’s, and Saya’s, and in another moment the blood streaks as KD falls, his body sliding and then falling still forever, a moment later mimicked by Saya’s lifeless husk, her blonde hair stained with the gore, and when the hag calls out for Veleris and I to run lest we join our friends, my smile is true when I ask why I would care and why I would run, for they were no friends of mine and I have barely begun to learn the wonders of this Island, and when Veleris and I offer our services this time we mean it, and when she accepts them we know that the future holds many a year of study… and a clear path to power beyond anything we’ve yet seen.

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Flashback Session 5: The Hedge Maze
In which the fey unite, the heroes are chosen, the Spiral Palace is seen, and the party ventures forth into a hedge maze.

“Ill met by starlight,” Ragnar says as we approach the clearing, his massive form standing one wide stride past his dozens of fellows on one side of the field, directly across from - and her dozens. The events at the Water Palace can not be hidden, and we make little attempt to do so, and to his credit Ragnar makes no attempt at revenge upon us for the death of his cousin, taking his share of the blame for the unfortunate incident. He and she and we all know that the immediate threat remains Soryth and Kalbon, especially now that Proferio’s essence has slipped the material plane once more to become part of the island, free to be siphoned into the Hag’s ritual and crystalize her dominance of this plane. Forbidden from making another assault of their own, and after a night’s rest is interrupted by an incursion from the Xivorts who seem to blanket the width and breadth of the island every nightfall, our small party is ushered to the edge of the vast hedge maze that surrounds the Spiral Palace, whose many roofs we can see in the distance, and when we ventured inside we see the trickery of this island in every nook and cranny of the fouled place; twice we find ourselves doubled back on our tracks, and twice more we come to dead ends. The saccharine smell of the yellow roses is like a madness that slips into the nostrils and down the throat, numbing senses and confusing memories.

Since the altar’s imprint matches exactly the Bloodstone KD acquired from who-knows-where, we place the gem in the groove only to see it vanish, and the footfalls of Boggles running becomes our guide as we hunt the thieves. We manage, somehow, to flank them and pin them, and when they turn to make their stand we have little trouble felling the nasty blighters, though not without a few painful pricks of our own. We continue into the maze; this ends tonight.

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Flashback Session 4: the Water Palace
In which a crossing is made, a thrall is freed, a hideout is found, chicken is shared, a contest is fought, and a tragedy occurs.

Down the hill from Oakstaff is a lake, a wide expanse of calm water surrounding a single island in its center, upon which is perched a colonnaded structure that we all assume immediately to be the Water Palace, former summer home of Proferio and current hiding place of Orlando. There is a small raft tied to a small dock, and seeing no other ways across we commandeer it and KD pushes us out into the water, upon which we glide for a few moments before a thunderous voice behind us proclaims us trespassers, asserts that Kalbon is the ruler here, and issues a threat to our lives. Turning, we see a smoky visage of a fangéd man slowly dissipating from the air above a tiny blue-robed pixie, whose eyes share the glassy sheen of the enchanted we know from our encounter with the leprechauns. The pixie swirls up the water with a wave of his tiny hands, and four spouts of water and fury spin toward us, push us all off of our tiny boat, and generally make our passage quite impossible until, a few moments later, we manage to knock some sense into our attacker and dispel his watery servants. He is quite apologetic for his misdeeds, and after explaining how, after the assault on the ritual, he was left behind and eventually enthralled by the hag Soryth and the fiend Kalbon, he asks to depart and we allow him to go back to the Summer Queen’s Champion’s camp while we continue on our way, albeit somewhat more damp than we were beforehand.

The ascent to the Water Palace is short and sweet, through a small grove of flowers and over stepping stones in a small brook. We enter to find a still-hot dinner laid out on a long table, and find poor Orlando, his visage half-transformed as Julianna’s was, hiding in a small pit trying to keep his freedom. When we explain our situation to him he attempts to explain his to us, but like his beau he finds the task quite difficult, since, as he puts it, “part of me is in Kalbon, and part of me is in here.” KD, though, recalls that he has the young man’s locket– though I swore Saya had it last– and when it is returned to him Orlando’s whole appearance resolves, and his wits come about him long enough to recall the journey into the Crystal Cave, being set upon by Soryth, being captured and chanted at by the Hag, being freed in the assault on her Palace, being lured away by the dryad Rosaline, and being sent here by the Treent Oakstaff.

But no sooner was this story told than in burst Basal, Ragnar’s cousin and hunter of Orlando. He offers to fight us for possession of Orlando, and when it is clear that he will not take no for an answer the battle ensues, but it is clear that this brigand intends no such fight as he ignores us and hits poor Orlando again and again, despite the poor boy’s running away and despite our blows lashing red blood over the giant’s green form. When Orlando falls we know that he will not be rising again, and we encircle the brute who did the act, and the green turns redder and redder until there are two bodies laying on the ground of the Water Palace. We have failed.

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Flashback Session 3: Champions and Fiends
In which we attend a fey revelry, wrestle unicorns, bypass an obstacle, talk to dryads and treents, and still do not find anyone we're looking for.

We camp under the stars, though their constellations bely the unnature of this place. It is a quiet sleep, and when we awake the claw marks of Xivorts all around us reveal the protection that the leprechauns lent us overnight.

Thus rested, we set out North to find the Green Lord‘s champion. It is an easy trek, save a field of crimson-thronged shrubberies that look menacing enough that we bypass them through various bits of magic and ingenuity. Soon afterward we find ourselves at the gates of a raucous camp in the throes of an early revelry, and while they somehow manage not to recognize KD they do invite us to join the fun. When our mission is made clear to them–after a few drinks and stories, of course–they offer to bring our case to Ragnar, the Champion himself, if we will but do them the favor of guiding a few unicorns to them, said unicorns having made the unfortunate choice to favor the Summer Queen’s champion instead. We agree with the hearty agreement possible only after a few drinks and stories shared with wild fey in an early morning revelry, and though the unicorns prove playful we have no real trouble guiding them into the orbit of the Green Lord and his ilk.

Ragnar, suitably impressed with KD as he led a four-unicorn parade back into the camp (still enjoying a revelry, now not so early but just as raucous), tells us that though he has already sent his cousin to break the magic hex by finding and killing young Orlando-cum-Propherio, he would be more than happy to attempt to disentwine them if we were somehow to bring the lad back in one piece, providing that we somehow do so before said finding and killing is completed by said cousin. KD manages to avoid the ongoing revelry and set off immediately, and the rest of us are obliged to follow along.

The last known whereabouts of the identity-confused boy are known to us, being not far away in the presence of a tree said to house a dryad, which would coincide nicely with Julianna’s story of her love being wooed away by a woman of some great wiles. Indeed when we arrive at the tree and talk to the dryad in question she confirms this version of events, and further points us in the direction of a Treent of her acquaintance by the name of Oakstaff, whose roots are put down not far from her own, and whose acquaintance we too soon share, the old fey having heard of our presence on the island and being quite ready to point us along to the Water Palace, the old hideout of Propherio, which is guarded against the hag Soryth–who we’ve met– and her fiend friend Calaban– whose presence we were before this unaware of– in much the same way that their lair, the Spiral Palace, is protected against all those native to the island, making it impossible for them to approach it. Oakstaff gives us some provisions and points the way onward, but it is becoming a bit tedious running errands for the errand boys of great fey lords without so much as a promise that the errand boys will be happy about it, let alone that the fey lords might come to know the many tedious steps necessary for their wishes to be made real. Nevertheless KD is not about to give up on poor Julianna and Orlando, whose timing was abysmal but whose fate should not be left to the hands of chance. So I do assume that we shall away to the Water Palace forthwith, and indeed your humble scribe should stop now as the party seems to be heading in precisely that direction.

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