This Grey Oerth

Mootbound

Through the Welkwood & Gnarley to Richfest Moot

L’wyndll

Game day: 7/21/13

Sunday, 2 Reaping (7)
A few days after your adventures at Oakloch Grove, you decide that you would indeed like to pursue the path of a druid. You tell Khorel that being a shapeshifter druid is the most appealing to you. You feel in your bones that it is something you can do.

Khorel informs you that it is a rare druid that can follow the strict path of the shapeshifter. All druids can eventually learn the art of transformation, but it is highly unusual for one to begin their training with that ability. There needs to be a natural inclination, something in the blood, something hereditary. He senses some chance in you however, perhaps only because you want it so badly.

Before you get started training, however, Khorel sends you to Giantslook to buy your own supplies with the money you earned from your adventure at Oakloch and the one gold piece your mother was able to contribute. Pelar accompanies you because he needs some things as well.

Godsday, 25 Reaping
It seems that both you and Khorel sensed correctly, because after a few weeks of intense training, you have your first shape-shifting success: a forest turtle. Well, to be fair, it looks more like a fuzzy-faced snake hiding under a wooden bowl, but the proof is there; you are able to shape-change.

578 CY

Moonday, 17 Wealsun (6)
Almost a year has passed since you made the decision to become a druid. You have been continuing to learn the principles of altering your body chemistry to take the shape of other small woodland animals: squirrels, skunks, lizards, snakes, bluejays and robins. The birds have been the most difficult, primarily because the rules of flight take a little getting used to. You have suffered more than a few bumps and bruises trying to land.

Khorel has warned you to not attempt to change shape more than three times per day. Doing so, he says, could have dire consequences. Unless you want to live out your days as a squirrel, he says, please don’t tempt fate. In general, it is best to change to each of the three forms only once per day, he says, meaning mammal, reptile and bird. “You don’t want to let your body grow too accustom to being in any one form. In fact,” he says, “this is all most druids are even able to do. You will be able to shift more than normal, but it is dangerous to do so. Even I cannot accomplish such a feat, but there is something in you that allows it. Use it only when there is no other way.”

With nearly a year of practice, you are feeling confident with your new abilities. You have spent much more time with Khorel and practicing your skills than you have with your mother by far. It has been a very intense and challenging time for you, but it has all paid off. In addition to shape-shifting, you have also learned how to perform several spells, but are only able to have two prepared at any given time. Khorel has also taught you the secret language of Thari, which only druids know. This language has a specialized and detailed vocabulary limited to dealing with Nature and natural events; beyond this, it is very basic. It is purely a spoken tongue, although there are a few runes that exist for marking paths and leaving messages (danger, safe water, safe trail, etc).

The 17th of Wealsun is the Ceremony of the Turning, and Khorel chose this day to grant you the title of Aspirant, but he says that to be properly initiated, you must attend a moot.

Midsummers is drawing near again, so Khorel commands that you go north into the Gnarley Forest to be initiated into the order at the Richfest Moot. There are four moots a year, he explains, and never in the same place in a row. Their locations are kept secret. At this moot, you are to meet Drenthea, who is also a shape-shifter and an Initiate of the 8th Circle. Khorel simply says he wants you to speak with her, but you detect a larger purpose in this task.

He says it will take you about a week to get there on foot. There are no horses available, so that’s your only option. “This time you are going alone,” he says. “The moot begins in twelve days and lasts for a week. Don’t miss it.” This gives you only a few days to prepare for your journey.

“Be very careful,” he tells you. “Prepare your survival spells. The Welkwood is dangerous enough from time to time, but the Gnarley is always dangerous. Be smart and stay alert.”

Freeday, 21 Wealsun (Day 1 of journey)
You head out alone to journey to the Gnarley Forest and the Richfest Moot.

The trail branches north about a league west of your home in the Welkwood.

What at first was a decently wide trail quickly turns narrow, occasionally blocked by fallen branches or nearly closed in from undergrowth. It is clearly not well traveled by horse, but on foot it seems you’ll do fine. About a league north and you’ve gone past your normal exploring grounds, out of your comfort zone. You are half elfkind though, so even an unfamiliar forest gives you some comfort.

A couple hours into your trip, you start to feel like someone or something is following you. But each time you look back there is nothing there and you chalk it up to just nerves. Occasionally you swear you hear someone hiccup, but on second thought, decide it was probably just a tree frog.

You break for lunch. And during lunch you decide to practice some of your newly learned skills, going through some of the spell-casting motions without actually casting anything. But as you begin, you sense someone watching you again. You stop and the sound fades. Each time you start to practice a spell, you hear the movement get closer, and when you stop it fades. This last time, as you are really giving your best performance, you hear a shuffling and then what sounds like a soft high pitched hiccup again. You see something move behind a rock, and then behind a tree, then hear a rustling in the bushes. And… out comes what looks like a giant soot ball! Bouncing up and down. It seems excited to see you.

It seems to have been attracted by your practicing magic. It rolls and bounces about and then jumps right into your lap momentarily, making a kind of snorting, purring sound. As you go to pet it, however, it bounces away again and then peeks out from behind a log.

You put out a piece of jerky to see if you can lure it closer. You turn away to give it some time and hear a kind of slurping noise. You turn back to see the jerky gone, but the creature is still right where it was. You try this again a few times with similar results, but slowly the ball of fuzz seems to feel more comfortable and comes up to you again, allowing you to pet it briefly.

After lunch, the creature follows you, sometimes jumping up on your shoulders and hiding in your pockets. It seems harmless and rather friendly, so you let it.

A while later, you see a bird trapped in a large abandoned spider web clinging to a tree. You hold the bird gently and carefully cut the web away with your dagger, then wipe the remaining web strands off the bird’s feathers and let it go. The fuzzy black soot ball seems so thrilled that you did this. It makes several high-pitched snorting hiccups in approval. You soon discover that it behaves this way any time you do something that helps a forest creature or plant, particularly if it involves using magic.

Just before the sun goes down, you see a short distance away, a white horse standing in a clearing. But no, it’s not a horse. There is a single horn protruding from its head. It’s a unicorn! You’ve known that there are unicorns in the Welkwood and had even seen one or two when you were younger, but from a much greater distance. This one isn’t far away at all. It sees you and appears to nod its head as it takes a short step toward you. Then it turns and runs off.

Starday, 22 Wealsun (Day 2)
You awake startled to find a black ball of fluff curled up by your face, but quickly realize from its whining snore, that its your little round furry friend you’ve decided to name Hiccup.

Only moments later, before you’ve had time to clear the sleep from your eyes, you hear a voice from somewhere near and above you.

“Yeah, she’s right here,” it says. “Seems harmless.” Hiccup disappears somewhere into the folds of the short cloak that covers your leather armor.

The voice is smooth and musical, but has a bitter tone to it. You get up quickly and look around. In a tree above you is an elf, dressed in leather armor as well. You see two more elves similarly garbed standing nearby. They question you about your destination, and you question them back without giving any real answers. They reply in kind, and you are all left in the dark about each other’s intentions. They call you half-human and sneer, and tell you that you’d better be careful in these woods, that your human side might betray you. Better that you go back and live in a city. You are hurt from their cruel ignorance, but you show no sign of it. They leave toward the southwest and you start back along your path northward.

Early in the morning, you give a wide berth to a group of bombardier beetles that are crossing the path.

Midmorning, you see the unicorn again, but as before, it doesn’t linger long.

You reach the Myfal, also known as the Emerald River, at lunchtime and decide to break on its shore. It is a small river compared to the Jewel, which separates Celene from the Wild Coast to the east, but it is more than a stream. After lunch, you cross the three-foot-wide log bridge to the other side.

About a mile north of the bridge, you are feeling thirsty and grab your water skin. As soon as you pull it from your belt strap, you realize that it feels not nearly as heavy as it should be. You find that it has been cut through the bottom and is quite empty. It’s a very clean cut, with a likely very sharp knife. You know it was full at lunch time before crossing the river.

Another mile along and without warning, you find yourself surrounded by what appear to be foot-tall faeries. They threaten you and demand money. “Gold!” they demand. “Fast fast fast!” “Be smart! Give now, and no trouble!” They speak Common very haltingly at best, but one in particular seems to be the most fluent and does most of the talking. You try speaking Elvish to them, but they don’t understand.

You decide to run and turn back toward the river as fast as you can.

Two of the little faery creatures zip forward much faster than you can react and attack you with tiny spears before you take two steps.

Seeing this, Hiccup jumps from your pocket and you see almost his entire body open into a pointy-toothed mouth, and an elastic frog-like tongue shoots out toward the attacking faery folk. In the blink of an eye, he snaps up one and then the other and swallows them whole; then lets out a loud burp. There is a brief moment of shock and horror from the remaining tiny would-be bandits before they all blink out of existence.

A moment later a few more reappear a bit further off, speaking loud dramatic words in their own language. Suddenly a swarm of hornets comes from high in a tree and heads straight for you. However, just as suddenly the hornets veer from their course and double back, heading straight for the tiny folk, much to their chagrin and surprise. They all blink away again.

They appear a third time, somewhat closer, but not in attack distance. Taking no chances, you quickly transform into a flying squirrel and spring onto a tree branch. They appear awestruck and you realize that they have bowed their heads and sheathed their weapons.

They speak in reverent, but quaking tones. They are clearly afraid of you.

It turns out that they speak squirrel much better than Common, so you remain in that form while they tell you their story.

One of them introduces himself as Kalumbo. He is the leader of the raiding party and brother to Meltumbo, their clan leader. He says they are atomies and have been forced into a terrible situation.

Three of their kind were trapped by a cyclopskin’s game trap: two male atomies and one very important female. The female, Shalwayndry, is the daughter of their leader. One of the males, Grellfantry, is her bodyguard, and the other male, Golclumus, is a suitor. Kalumbo doesn’t know how they were caught, because, he tells you, it is very very difficult to catch an atomie, especially by a notoriously not bright cyclopskin. The trap is clearly magical, he says, because “blink blink no work.” And it makes a “loud whatit whatit whoop when too close.”

The cyclopskin threatens to eat his prisoners whenever the atomies approach or threaten him and has persuaded the atomies to hunt for him. Now he is demanding gold as well. So the atomies have taken to waylaying travelers and stealing their money, much as it saddens them to do so. They are playing along with the cyclopskin’s demands until they figure out how to safely free their very important kinsmen.

Their patience for this arrangement is wearing thin, however, since the cyclopskin keeps reneging on his deal and changing the terms.

It’s been six days since the three were caught. They are much too afraid to attack the cyclopskin directly though because each time they tried so far, it went straight to the cage and threatened to eat the prisoners immediately, instead of trying to fight back.

You are still a little untrusting of these atomies and go to check on the situation yourself, remaining in your flying squirrel form. You find that it seems they are telling the truth. An ugly cyclopskin, a smaller cousin of the cyclops, leans casually against a tree next to a cage containing three atomies.

You change back to your human form and cast entangle on the cyclopskin. The branches of the tree and bushes around it quickly bind themselves around the one-eyed humanoid.

You find a key on a string around the cyclopskin’s neck. Approaching the cage with the key in hand, no alarm sounds and you free the prisoners. You take the cage as well, as the cyclopskin groans and curses trapped among the branches.

The atomies are overjoyed and extremely grateful for your help. They give you a silver necklace with a tourmaline gemstone and tell you that it is a friendship necklace. If you wear this, atomies will know that you are their friend and will come to your aid.

They repair your waterskin and prepare beds of soft leaves for you to sleep on. In the morning, they make a big breakfast for both you and Hiccup, although they keep their distance from Hiccup.

Sunday, 23 Wealsun (Day 3)
A group of wood elves dressed in ring mail and carrying bows and spears meet you on the path. They are led by an elf named Gresufel. They question you as to your business there since you are approaching the town of Oakvein, an elven tree-top settlement of Clan Enlanefel. After determining that you are friendly, particularly because you are a druid and a friend of the forest, they offer to lead you to Oakvein. They give you a bed for the night as appreciation for your care and dedication to the forest.

You know that Clan Enlanefel elves are seers, mystics and loremasters, and that they protect their secrets fiercely. Other clans are also represented in Oakvein, as the sylvan clans prefer mixed communities. Looking down from the homes there, you can see the tops of the trees of the Gnarley Forest to the north. Oakvein sits on the edge of the Welkwood, whose gigantic trees tower high above.

While there, you ask if they know what exactly Hiccup is. You are directed to an elder, Cla’lefwen, who tells you that it is a pygmy eh-oh. A full-sized eh-oh looks the same but is large enough to swallow a human. Also they are not nearly as friendly. They get their name from the sounds they make. Pygmy eh-ohs are extremely rare. They are forest lovers and have a special affinity for good magic-using creatures. They love healing and helpful magic in particular and have been known to attach themselves to a rare adventurer in the past. The elder tells you that they are also called hiccups, because of the high-pitched eh-oh sound they make. You find that to be quite appropriate, since that’s what you have already named it.

Moonday, 24 Wealsun (Day 4)
Sometime during the day, you see a large brown bear ahead of you, just off the path.

Unfortunately, you have seen it too late and apparently it is not pleased with you being there. Either that or it’s just hungry. It charges at you.

You scramble for your mistletoe, your brain racing to remember the proper hand gestures for Invisibility to Animals. And just as the bear is leaping at you, success! You turn invisible.

But you forgot to jump out of the way.

The impact of the bear hitting you is enormous. The air is knocked out of you and when your head hits the ground, everything goes black.

When you awake, it seems not much time has passed. The bear is still there, but it is swatting frantically at a swarm of bees that has surrounded it, while at the same time clawing at a tree where it appears someone else has tried to avoid the angry bear.

You see immediately that this person is Pelan. From his vantage in the tree, he casts Entangle on the bear and you both escape.

Once you have put a comfortable distance between yourselves and the bear, you ask Pelan what the hell he’s doing there. Apparently, Khorel didn’t trust you quite as much as he had suggested and sent Pelan to watch over you. Pelan assures you that it was only out of concern (for things like bear attacks and worse), so you forgive his misleading you.

You realize that it was Pelan who controlled the hornets back when the atomies attacked you and you ask him why he didn’t interfere then.

“You didn’t yet seem in completely dire straights,” he says. “After all, you did work your way out of that mess quite nicely in the end.

“I had actually hoped to deal with that bear before you woke up too,” he adds, “but no such luck. So here we are. To be honest, I was tired of stalking you anyway. It’ll be much nicer to have a companion on the road.”

Godsday, 25 Wealsun (Day 5)
You see two ogres not far off, who have also spotted you. The Gnarley Forest is turning out to be everything you were warned about. They rush toward you with clubs swinging.

Both you and Pelan attempt to climb trees to get a better vantage for spell-casting before they get there. He doesn’t have your natural elven ability though, and he slips and falls to the ground when he’s part way up. The ogres attack him as he’s trying to stand.

With your success of the Entangle spell on the cyclopskin and Pelan’s success on the bear, you cast it again on the two ogres. The problem being that Pelan is right in the middle of them.

Your spell is a success again, and the two ogres and Pelan quickly become trapped together in a mess of roots and branches. Pelan is trapped, but you’ve most certainly saved him from being bludgeoned to death.

You decide that the ogres are no good to anyone and slit their throats. With them dead, you are able to loosen the branches and free Pelan.

After that, the forest becomes hilly and a little more difficult to travel. But by evening, you arrive in Namburil, a gnomish town in the midst of the Gnarley.

The gnomes there are suspicious of outsiders, albeit not as much as the elves, but they find druids to be free of ill intent, so give you welcome. Unlike the elves, however, they charge you for your lodging.

You stay at the Inn of the Black Beard, run by a gnome named Rogarty. Fortunately, they have a room with human-sized beds for you, though the ceilings are low. He charges you 1gp for a very nice meal, bath and bed.

As you are a little worse for wear, and bloody from the encounters with the ogres and bear, Rogarty directs you to a healer in town. Her name is Bertressa, and you are somewhat surprised to see that she is a half-orc. She is a pleasant type, but her prices are a bit high, so you don’t buy anything. You decide to rest four hours to recharge and learn a couple more cure light wounds spells instead. You then sleep the rest of the night.

Waterday, 26 Wealsun (Day 6)
Still traveling through the hilly section of the forest, the going is a bit slower than before, but the day passes uneventfully.

In the night, however, you are awoken by a sound and see a man nearby the camp. He apologizes for disturbing your sleep and introduces himself as Gergis. He says he is a ranger and is aware of the moot, so assumes that’s where you’re headed. He appears friendly, though cautious. He excuses himself and heads west away from the trail.

Earthday, 27 Wealsun (Day 7)
Early in the day, as the hills level out, you reach a better traveled road, known as the High Road, and follow it east and then north toward Sobanwych. The going is much smoother now that the terrain is flat again and the road a bit easier. You pass a few travelers and a lumber cart, but other than that, the day is uneventful. You are grateful for the break from combat.

In the evening, you reach Sobanwych, which is a human settlement. No one seems too terribly suspicious of you here. They seem to get a fair amount of travelers.

You stay at the Inn of the Hopping Hare. The innkeeper is Clanga, a wide woman with a wine-soaked grin. Prices here are over twice what they were in Namburil for about half the quality.

Freeday, 28 Wealsun (Day 8)
Roughly six miles north of Sobanwych, you find a trail heading west from the High Road. You recognize the Thari rune “safe trail” painted on a flat rock.

You meet some other druids along the way who are also heading to the moot. You decide to travel together. The trail turns out to be truly safe as the rune confirmed. You guess that it is being watched and protected.

It is getting dark, but you decide to press on, as you are sure you are close. You finally arrive a few hours after dusk.

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