At the end of last session, we left out heroes fleeing the collapsing Dark Forest on the wings of a plane shift spell. After all, virtually anywhere in the vicinity of Kaer Maga would be better than a collapsing demi-plane!
Suddenly, they were elsewhere. They had arrived in the shallows of a small woodland male. Behind them water tumbled over a lofty waterfall. Around the lake sprawled what appeared to be an elven village of sorts.
Their arrival had not gone unnoticed. As they struggled out of the water (and Grooble kissed the blessed ground so happy was he to have escaped the Dark Forest) several villagers approached the party. One—a gnome who introduced himself as Grimish Featherknocker—was the owner of the nearby Star Landing inn. He confirmed the party had arrived in the eastern Sunndi on the western flank of the Hestmark Highlands. They were safe (but about 150 miles away from Kaer Maga)!
Exhausted and soaked, they followed Grimish to the Star Landing wherein they took rooms, rested and assessed their situation. They quickly worked out that they were about ten days travel from Kaer Maga, which was far from ideal as their vessel—the Mermaid’s Mistress—was due to depart in but a few days. There seemed no way the party could get word to the vessel to delay its sailing.
In desperation, they asked about the village and even visited the Star Falls Academy—a wizard’s guild of some local repute. Sadly, no one could help them. However, they did learn of a person—Balas Solwyn—who might be able to help. He who lived on the edge of the village with his elven granddaughter, Alera.
Thus armed with this information, several of the party went to visit Balas and Alera. Balas certainly turned out to be a unique individual—some kind of unicorn/gold dragon half-breed. Initially, Balas was grumpy and refused to help the heroes. However, when they confided in him the gravity of their mission, he reluctantly agreed to help. However, he needed something in exchange. Balas agreed to swiftly carry a message to the Mermaid’s Mistress, but while he was away the party would have to protect his granddaughter for he believed her to be in great danger.
The bargain was thus sealed and the party agreed to return the next day to watch over Alera. Back at the tavern, Karelia penned a swift missive to Markessa asking her to delay sailing for another two weeks. Meanwhile, the rest of the party made some disconcerting discoveries. It seemed that a threat did indeed menace the village. The Crimson Shadow King was said to lurk in the surrounding woodlands and sneak into the village in the early morning to steal away newborn babies. This (inevitably) lead to wild speculation Alera was pregnant—and hiding her condition with powerful magics—and that Balas feared the Crimson Shadow King would steal her baby. This (also inevitably) led to a series of cunning plans involving making it look like Karelia was pregnant so as to distract the Shadow King from Alera. Ultimately (and sadly) these were discarded.
The next morning, the party arrived at Balas’ house and after a brief discussion he took to the air and flew off toward Kaer Maga. With Balas gone, the party set about fortifying the house to withstand any assault. Doors were barred, watches were set and defensive spells were cast. Several of the party were convinced something terrible was going to befall Alera.
However, for several hours nothing untoward happened. Alera grew bored and began playing her harp—which was an incredible piece of craftsmanship and completely out of place in such a humble home.
As she continued to play, a human male clutching a bunch of wilted flowers wandered toward the house. The party leapt into action. Narfu and Ariquis intercepted the young man (who Alera identified as Hol). He really wanted to see Alera and give her the flowers, but by now the party were convinced all was not as it seemed. Clearly, Hol was in disguise or the flowers were poisoned!
After a brief argument, Hol gave up and stomped back in to the village. Ariquis suspected, however, Hol would try again and so he followed the human. Hol was cunning and indeed clearly up to something. Ariquis lost him. Luckily, Narfu was more alert and intercepted Hol again—this time trying to get into the back of the house. The brave and redoubtable monk stood his ground and saw off the amorous caller (although he did accept the flowers on Alera’s behalf).
After Hol left nothing else of import happened and in the late afternoon Balas suddenly appeared in front of the house—transported there by powerful magics. He confirmed he had delivered the message and that Markessa had agreed to wait for a fortnight. Satisfied the party had kept his granddaughter safe, he dismissed them and they returned to the inn to plot their next move…