Friday, July 27, 2007

Shadows of the Black Feather Part VII: The Dark Woods of Grimm Tales

Previously on Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, the heroes discovered the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind hidden in the graveyard of the village of Barovia, and got one (small) step closer to putting the Devil Strahd to rest for good.

However, upon their return to the village proper, they discovered that a mythical dwarf-man and a pack of giant wolves came into the village and stole some children while the heroes were indisposed fighting subterranean ghoul ninjas during the last adventure! Questioning the barkeep of the Blood o' the Vine Tavern, they discovered that the dwarf man returned every decade or so to steal children and had been doing so for well on 150 years! Furthermore, the heroes found old drawings of the demihuman kidnapper in old scrolls within the Burgomaster's mansion, referred to as the "Gnome of the Fairy Forest." Clearly heroes such as they couldn't let this kind of horror continue!
Namara the bard made a few inquiries about town, and found that there is a forest rumored to be where the creature drags its prey, up near Tser Falls. The forest is known as the "Forest of the Shadow Fairies" and it is said that anyone who enters never leaves, as they are tricked by the fairies and sent to their deaths. Marking the location on their map, the group loaded up their belongings and set out immediately the next morning.

Following Old Svalich Road, the heroes made it to the old gypsy encampment near Tser Lake, though the gypsies had left. They continued on into the forest, where they found a hand-painted sign. As soon as they passed the sign and entered the woods, they felt the forest grow dark and the mists seemed to creep in around them.

Soon they came upon a strange sight. A small girl sat on a huge mushroom with a bowl of porriage or somesuch in her hands. She sat perfectly still and didn't seem to notice them. As the party came closer to investigate, they realized, to their horror, that the girl was actually long dead, and had been stuffed with hay and sown back together as if she were a hunting trophy! Furthermore the giant mushroom she "sat" upon was nothing but a wood carving. As they inspected this horrific theme park attraction before them, the priest and dwarf were enveloped in webs, and huge spiders sprang down from the trees!

After a hard-fought battle, and a few fort saves vs. poison, the party prevailed against the giant spiders. They then burnt the stuffed body of the poor child and said some prayers of sacrament over the flames.

Continuing on the path into the forest toward the waterfall, they were suprised to see a number of crows spring up from the trail in front of them. Upon further inspection, Cedric the priest noticed that a few breadcrumbs lay about them, though where they came from was beyond his tracking skills. Up ahead they came upon a tiny cabin with two small figures in front of it. The cabin seemed to be made of gingerbread and the children looked to be eating pieces of it, though they were not moving. Soon the party realized that these kids, too, were mounted as some sort of grotesque depiction of a child's fairy tale.

But suddenly the smell of the gingerbread house overcame them, and Garsome, Namara, and Milo all raced toward the house intent on eating it! Cedric only had seconds to act, but fortunately had memorized the spell break enchantment (much to my surprise), and was able to snap Garsome and Namara out of their frenzied hunger. Milo, probably due to his halfling heritage, was unable to resist taking a bite of chocolate roof shingle. Upon eating the most delicious house, a soft voice emanated from inside:

"Nibble, nibble, at my house, who would nibble, perhaps a mouse?"

And Milo was promply balefully polymorphed into a tiny rodent. As the remainder of the party laughed at his predicament, a cat darted out of the bushes nearby intent on eating the malformed halfling. Fortunately, Milo was able to tumble safely into the hands of Garsome, who was already kicking the cat far into the woods. Contemplating leaving the roguish halfling to his fate, and upon consultation with Namara's bardic lore, the group decided that he does come in handy once and a while and Cedric powered up a dispel magic to change Milo back to his small, but at least not-so-tiny, self.

Deciding to deal with the house itself, and the voice within, the adventurers cautiously stomped into the cabin, where their senses were once again accosted by a huge banquet feast, surrounded by gold and gems. The smell of the feast once again threatened to take hold of the party. Holding his nose, Cedric raced into the room and kicked over the table, spilling the food all over the floor. The adventurers then picked up as much treasure as they could while holding their breath before running out of the cabin. They quickly, as adventurers are wont to do, chopped down the cabin and burnt it.

Being extra cautious as they continued through the forest, the party came upon another strange presentation: a wolf on its hind legs in a flower-print dress wielding a giant dinner knife, chasing a little red-caped girl! Of course, both were perfectly still and it was yet another taxidermist's mad art project. Immediately applying silversheen to their weapons, they were not surprised when werecreatures burst out of the forest around them. However, they were surprised that instead of the werewolves they'd been encountering in the surrounding forests, these creatures were all sorts of werebeast species, from tigers to boarmen!

Quickly determining that their silvered weapons wouldn't necessarily hurt these unusual werebeasts, they fell back on plan "B." Plan "B" consists of casting haste, magic circle of protection, inspire confidence, heroism, and cure moderate wounds on Garsome and shoving him into battle to just hit the beasts as hard as he can. This high-precision tactic paid off, and the werecreatures were vanquished. As they reverted to their humanoid forms, the creatures turned into malnourished children wearing metal collars. Clearly they had been forced into servitude to a higher evil malevolence.

After this tromp through the "Grimm"-est of fairy tales, they decided to rest the night in the forest before seeing what kind of nonsense deathtraps they'd encounter nearer to the waterfall. Also, Cedric was running low on spells and wanted a chance to memorize some more enchantment-resistance spells.

Unfortunately for our resident priest-warrior, he didn't get the opportunity. During the night, Cedric had a terrible nightmare in which he was chased by a witch, who grabbed him, put a saddle on him, and rode him like a beast all over the forest. He woke up extremely exhausted and was unable to memorize any spells the next morning. While pondering the strange dream, he used one of his few remaining lesser restoration spells to revive himself and realized that he wouldn't get any sleep until he left the forest or killed this dream-haunting witch!

Will the heroes survive the Forest of Shadow Fairies to reach the waterfall? And what will they find therein, the immortal gnome-prince of the fey? Will Cedric run out of party-saving spells just when they need them the most? (yes) Find out, in the next installment of:

Expedition to Castle Ravenloft!