Another wet and cold week of travel finally brought the party to their destination. Morgil informed the party that they had reached the area of the Fenwood where the observatory was rumored to have once been. Morgil set up a hidden camp, underneath a canopy of giant, twisted tree roots and told the party he would wait here for up to a week for them.
Grimm, Valas, Ursen, Kodi, and Luthion set out to explore their surroundings. About an hour out of camp, they came upon a wide, slow river and began to follow it upstream. Over a rise they spotted a giant willow tree, quite obviously out of place, even among the giant trees of the Fenwood. Carefully watching the area for signs of movement, the scouting party waited. They saw no movement or activity, but Ursen sensed that the area surrounding the tree was very “unnatural.”
In the morning, the entire group left and approached the willow. The willow stood upon the edge of a high cliff, overlooking the river. At the base of the cliff, partially hidden by roots, was a small cave opening. They also noticed one large set of stairs, carved into the tree, that led up to a large fissure, and two smaller sets of stairs that led to similarly small openings. The party opted to enter the large fissure.
The fissure was obviously not natural, having a solid and smooth floor, and there was a door set in the far wall. After searching for traps, Grimm opened the door to find only pitch darkness beyond. Puzzled by this, Grimm pondered why his darkvision wasn’t working. Before he could do anything else, a small bolt shot out of the darkness and stick deep into Grimm’s thick hide. With a yelp of pain he dodged to the side of the door. After a few moments of tense discussion, there were no more attacks. Asterion, tired of waiting, boldly led the way into the darkness, followed closely by the inquisitor. Valas, seeing larger and stouter folk ahead of him, trailed after.
Feeling their way through the darkness, the party discovered that the magical darkness was only small in area, and only covered the 4-way intersection immediately inside the main entrance. Beyond lay a series of hallways and doors, obviously some sort of elven tree-fort or dwelling, although quite twisted. The paladin sensed evil within the very walls of this tree, and Ursen’s sense of unease grew as he entered its stinking halls.
After many minutes of carefully exploring and checking doors, the party sprung its first trap. Valas, Mathias, and Asterion were trapped within a small chamber that quickly began to fill with water. Asterion and Mathias quickly set about trying to pry the door open from one side, while Calis, pushing people out of his way, hacked at the door from the other side, infusing his blade with corrosive magic. After almost 30 seconds of furious activity, the door finally burst under the combined assault, spewing the occupant out. The “water” was actually some sort of watery sap-like residue that left the entire party sticky and smelly.
Pushing forward in their thorough exploration, the party stumbled into a drow ambush. Having long since heard the group approaching, the evil elven warriors were set to guard the barracks and kitchen area of the base. They chose their location and set upon the first to enter – Mathias. A brief battle followed. The drow chose their site well, but were unprepared for the ferocity of the party’s counterattack. Before long, all five drow lay dead.
Farther into the depths of the tree, the party came upon a wide hall that was blocked off by a massive steel portcullis, and there were very deep growls from some unseen beast beyond. Asterion and Mathias were unable to lift it. Luthion, while stepping forward to shoot a magically lit arrow down the hall, noticed an unusual pattern in the side of the hall. Examining this led to the discovery of a secret door. A side passage was found around the portcullis, and Calis, upon reaching the far end, turned to observe the direction in which the growls were coming from.
Without warning, a massive and twisted owlbear charged forth from its hiding place and bore down upon Calis. Calis suffered massive injuries as the beast not only savaged him, but scooped him up in its large claws and bore him off into its lair. The rest of the party rushed to Calis’ aid while Calis himself cast spell after spell into the beast. Finally, after a great struggle, the creature let go of Calis and fell to the ground dead. Heavily wounded and almost completely out of healing spells, the party decided to retreat from the tree and explore the cave.
Within the cave’s entrance, only a small and twisted tunnel led into darkness. Before long, they encountered an unusual set of roots that hung down, blocking further progress. The roots blocked the passage of all save Mathias. Curious as to what lay beyond, Mathias proceeded deeper into the depths of the tunnel. He eventually came into a small cave. Upon the floor near the far wall was a once-armored corpse, his flesh and even most of the metal of his armor having long-since rotted away. Next to his side lay a greatsword, untarnished and gleaming, even though covered in filth. The corpse’s sigil, on it’s tabard as well as the sword, was strangely familiar to the paladin, though he could not quite recall where he had seen it. Feeling that he was fulfilling the prophecy foretold by the spectre of Dertgar, Mathias grasped the sword and offered prayers to Iomedae and the spirit of the fallen warrior.
Leaving the cave, the party returned to the tree fortress and ascended a long and steep stairwell that led up several hundred feet. Eventually the party came out into a long, dark hallway. Within it were two normal doorways and one massive set of double doors. Valas, approaching the first door, set off a fire trap that singed several people, but did not do much harm. Just past the first door was a simple yet elegant bedroom, obviously set aside for a person of importance. Upon a desk were many papers, written in some sort of elvish code. A golden scimitar, studded with gems, stood upon a stand on the desk. At the far end of the room was a large four-poster bed with a footlocker in front of it.
Valas crossed the room to the footlocker immediately. The rest of the party did not wish to explore a bedchamber just yet, and left to examine the massive double doors. Valas, however, had other ideas. In trying to open the chest, he set off a poison needle trap that pricked his finger slightly. Almost immediately, Valas could feel the poison take effect, making him very light-headed and weak. He looked on, amazed, as his hand slowly began turning black and spreading slowly up his arm. He stumbled out into the hall and called for help. Ursen and Mathias were quick to identify the type of poison, but it was the inquisitor who saved the halfling’s life by administering a dose of antivenom.
After the excitement, the party opened the double doors. It led to a massive room, filled floor to ceiling with thick sheets of grey webbing. The far wall and ceiling of this room could hardly be seen. The party spread out cautiously and began to search the room. Luthion was the first to spot the creature. Whatever it was, it was very huge and it was hidden very carefully among the webs. Only Luthion’s elf-sight was able to pick out the faintly-glowing life-force around it. Almost as if it knew it had been detected, the beast gave a loud growl and charged forward with incredible speed.
When it reached the light, the party recoiled in horror before it. Its main body was that of a giant spider, easily 15 feet in diameter. It had two very large bat-like wings, and a long serpentine head extended from the front of its body. It stopped just within the edges of the thick webbing and breathed a steaming mist of corrosive vapor upon the party. Asterion was slightly wounded, but both Mathias and Calis were nearly killed. They party quickly sprung into action.
Asterion charged forward, evading the clawed swipes of the creature, hacking at the foul creature. Mathias and Calis also closed in, damaging the beast with sword and spell. Ursen enchanted Kodi’s claws and teeth, and the loyal bear charged forward to do his share. Luthion sent arrow after arrow into the thick hide of the beast. Valas, using his mystical abilities, turned invisible and tried to get closer to the beast in hopes of striking from an advantageous position, but the beast somehow sensed the halfling, and with a casual swipe of its massive claw, sent the halfling tumbling to the ground, broken and bloody.
The creature struck out again, clawing and biting at several members of the party. Calis fell to the ground unconscious after a massive claw swiped him off his feet. Finally, after a mighty blow from Mathias’ found greatsword and a massively furious assault of blade and horn from Asterion, the creature finally succumbed to its wounds and crashed to the ground, curling its legs underneath it.
Ursen and Mathias quickly set to healing both Calis and Valas, as well as doing what they could for the other injured party members. They then began to explore the rest of the complex.
Beyond the far door in the hall, they came upon another bedchamber, but no other sources of magic could be found. The party then split up into separate rooms and began to search. Within the first bedroom was found a small pouch with two gems. In the second bedchamber was found a hidden compartment under a large bear-skin rug. Within it was a dirty old sack that detected as magical. Within the large chamber, underneath a large wooden stage, was found another secret compartment. Inside were hundreds of gold pieces and a small runed stand with a small round hole in its top.
Taking the stand out from under the stage, the party set The Key within and struck it. The Key began to glow and play its music again, and a new image appeared. The scene was of a vast snowy landscape, partially obscured by heavy clouds and thick falling snow. Mountains could barely be seen looming in the background. Aiden, after several minutes of concentration, was able to break the musical code. It said “Seek the Scar of Ice.”
The party returned to Morgil’s camp, and after resting and healing, returned to the elven town of Everwell.