After two weeks of helping rebuild Port Kyra after the goblin attack, word has spread among most of the townsfolk that the Drakenblades really are heroes, and that maybe adventurers weren’t so bad after all. As the group sat at the Buccaneer Knight tavern and inn, they notice that the crowd was especially rowdy that night. After some shared drinks and food they sit listening to the entertainment (as it was far better than listening to Moonshadow rant on about how the city authorities took her ship), a dwarf with light brown hair and carrying strange devices approached them. He introduced himself as Kordan and stated that he had received a vision to seek out Albrecht and to aid him in his fight against the evil that seemed to pervade the land these days. After some brief conversation the group welcomed their new comrade and retired for the night
The next morning Albrecht left the group (with Moonshadow and Fang recovering from hangovers with the help of some elvish remedy that Kyrsta was cooking up) to look for the League of Questing Companies bounty board. He found four different bulletins of interest – one from Knightswatch Keep stating that they were beset by an unusual amount of undead (the keep is located in the Marsh of the Fallen where undead rise regularly, but usually the keep’s soldiers can handle it), another from a Duanian elf named Terathas stating that they has lost contact with a druid and that the druid’s grove had become corrupted, the third was from a captain stationed near the Orcrage Hills stating that the orcs were growing bolder by the day and attacking caravans and outlying villages, something they rarely do, and the last was stating that several riders had been sent to a fort/monastery in the Old Calveth Woods and had not returned.
Albrecht brought all of the bulletins back to the group and they discussed which they would deal with first. Moonshadow and Krysta wanted to aid the grove, Moonshadow because Duania is her homeland, and Krysta because she will go anywhere that nature is being despoiled in order to correct it and destroy whatever corrupting influence there is. their destination decided, the group bought new supplies and headed out towards Tradewinds Village, where Terathas was waiting for contact.
As the group traveled they came across what looked to be a hooded figure with a staff dragging something along. Albrecht called for a stop and noticed that Krysta was already in position on a small rise nearby, arrow nocked and ready. As the stranger approached the group could see that he was dragging a litter with several crates on it. They noticed that it looked to be a meager amount of nearly rotted produce and that the man was wearing what could only be considered rags. Albrecht spoke with him and found out that he was a farmer who had fallen on hard times due to the humanoid attacks and other problems within the kingdom and that he hoped to trade his meager crops for a small amount of money so that he could feed his family. Albrecht took pity on the man and gave him 200 gold pieces and offered to escort him back to Tradewinds from where he came.
The group made it to the village without further incident and bought the farmer a wagon so that he could get the rest of the way home. They went to the only inn in the village and Moonshadow noticed a Duanian elf sitting by himself near the hearth. She approached him and he went immediately on guard, since Twilight Fae were known for their evil reputations. Once he saw the badge of a Duanian Scout upon her armor however, he relaxed and said that he found it odd that a Twilight Fae would serve as a Duanian Scout. Moonshadow quickly found out that this elf was Terathas, who they were to contact about the grove. He told them that the grove had been corrupted and that there was someone else who better knew the situation. He told the group to be ready to travel early the next morning.
Terathas led the party to the grove where they met a sickly looking Dryad by the name of Celise. She explained that a wizard came into the grove and was asked to leave by the druid who protected it. The wizard unleashed his magics upon the druid and they fought a bitter battle until the wizard began pulling directly from the leylines to fuel his magic (a quick explanation – the core of the world is a large crystal sphere, and within that sphere rests a mad goddess. The leylines support her prison and power it. To draw power from the leylines directly causes her to stir and her nightmares to become manifest where ever the leylines become weakened), and thus the corruption formed. though the druid drove the wizard off, the damage had been done, and the druid became as corrupt as his grove.
Celise explained that none of the animals could come to harm, as the corruption was not their fault and to punish them for it would be wrong. She handed the group an oil to put on their weapons that would magically blunt them if they had to attack any of the creatures that called the grove home. She then asked them to go to the central oak in the middle of the grove and retrieve a sample, bark, a leaf, anything and to bring it back to her, but that they should only enter a couple of hours before dawn and be gone a couple of hours after dawn, as this was the only time the druid was not at the oak.
The party quickly covered their weapons in the oil (using it on a bow or gun would cause the ammunition fired from it to be magically blunted) and headed into the foreboding grove. They felt unwelcome and uneasy under the black boughs of the sickly looking trees. While it was spring elsewhere, this grove was dying a death beyond what the winter season usually brought. Black veins could be seen in the bark of the trees and the leaves crunched under foot and disintegrated. The party soon came into a clearing and two black bears with glowing red eyes, mangy, patchy fur and a nasty disposition. The group defended themselves and managed to knock the bears unconscious before moving on. They avoided a group of equally nasty looking stags by taking a small game trail to the side of the main path. They were then caught by surprise by a small group of sprites who put most of the party to sleep with drugged arrows. They managed to defeat the little creatures without killing any of them and moved on after those who fell to the arrows were reawakened.
The group managed to finally make it to the oak, and saw that it was in the same condition as the rest of the grove, if not worse. Moonshadow flew up and took a black leaf from the tree while Albrecht collected a sickly bark sample. As the group was leaving the clearing, they heard a horehounds, slurping, scream come from behind them. As they turned to look saw two horrific creatures staring them down. They were small balls of flesh, about 2-3 feet in diameter with tendrils and tentacles sticking out of them everywhere. They had two large bulbous eyes, another set of smaller eyes under that and a singular eye between the two smaller eyes. They had a large maw under their eyes and a smaller mouth under that, both filled with razor sharp teeth. Their skin was multi-colored, similar to how an oil slick looks when light reflects off of it. The group’s first instinct was to run. And run they did, but they caught up due to the slower speed of the dwarves. They fought a pitched battle with the creatures, several of the party running after seeing the gruesome effect the creature’s initial attacks had on Albrecht. By the time they returned they were able to help Albrecht finish the creatures off.
As they left the grove (and gladly at that), they gave the samples to Cerise. After taking a day to examine and analyze the samples, Cerise told the party that the only way to cleanse the grove was with a whole and ripe golden apple from the central apple tree in Appledale (of which they had one but it had been used), or the purest water from the top of Kyra’s Tears Falls. Having a partial apple and knowing that they only grew once in a great while, the group opted to retrieve the water for which Celise gave them a flask that looked to be made from a large acorn. Their trek was a long, but uneventful one, though they felt as though they were being watched the whole time. And they eventually made it to the top of the falls only to be greeted by a vista that took their breath away. From this vantage they could see the entire kingdom sprawled out below them. through the wispy clouds they could see the blue ribbons of the rivers as they flowed into Lake Kyra. They could Syris on its banks, and the other villages and farmlands spread out below. The top of the falls was no less beautiful as the mountains towered around them, lake at the fall’s source was crystal blue and clear and the land around was lush and green. Across the lake looked ot be the entrance to a cave of some sort.
Albrecht filled the flask they were given with the water and noted that the water smelled slightly like salt water oddly enough. As Moonshadow began to flit across the lake towards the cave entrance, the group felt as though the world behind them ceased to exist for a second as an unearthly howl came from behind them. they turned to see what seemed to be a tear in reality, a black sliver of nothignness forming in a vertical line. Through this sliver stepped a humanoid being that seemed to be nothing more than an absence within the world itself. Kyrsta screamed as she recognized the creature for what it was as the rest of the group prepared for the battle of their lives not knowing what it was they faced…