At first light I lead our group into the crater forest. It’s dark and muted. Eerie. An overgrown track threads its way through thick undergrowth roiling beneath towering trees. Progress is slow as we clamber over fallen logs and try to avoid touching a dark and scaly lichen I have never seen before.
This forest makes me nervous. Ash sticks close to my heels, growling softly at times.
We’ve been going about half an hour when a dryad appears ahead on the path. I lurch to a halt, taking in the dark taint on her skin, as though she too were diseased by the lichen.
She asks what brings us into these woods. I reply with something vague about seeking what is wrong with the forest. She doesn’t seem impressed and I feel her trying to compel me to leave.
I do not wish to attack the dryad, so we backtrack and take an alternate branch of the path; but the same thing happens. Another dryad (or possibly the same one) tries again to compel me to turn our party around.
I ask how we can help her and tells us to “bring the green man” — and fades into the forest.
The dryad’s curse
It seems we may now proceed, but Ammonite is standing in my way. We need to leave, they say, and hefts Alix’s borrowed mace.
For a long moment I stare, then realise the dryad has switched its target to Ammonite and they have succumbed to the enchantment. The mace looks brutal in Ammonite’s hands. I swallow and try to talk Ammonite around.
I fail and Ammonite attacks me when I refuse to leave the forest. We engage and the mace connects (ow!), but I manage to disarm them. Before Ammonite can retrieve the weapon, I kick it away, but eventually they regain it and attack me again.
Brynn and Calwyn are trying to do something with a rope, but I have no attention to spare for them.
The next time I manage to disarm Ammonite, Alix grabs the mace before Ammonite does. I try to wrestle Ammonite to the ground, but suddenly we are both scrambling to grab the sword I’ve just dropped in the dust. Ammonite’s feet seem to be entangled by a rope and I prevail this time.
Blessed Emrys, we do not have time for this!
Eventually our combined efforts (I get in a great right hook) result in Brynn sitting on Ammonite and tying their hands. We take stock of the situation and try to figure out what to do.
From bad to immeasurably worse
And now Brynn is untying Ammonite and they are both scrambling to their feet. We have to leave, Brynn says, echoing Ammonite.
Curse the dryad. Curse their weak minds for succumbing to the spell.
I feel it’s prudent at this stage to retreat. We cannot overpower both of them — and, even if we do, what then? Alix and I begin to slowly retreat, but the other two are now attacking Calwyn! He falls to the ground and in retaliation Alix wades in with a fireball, targeting our ensorcelled companions.
The situation has spun completely out of control. I have to stop it.
I pour my healing potion down Calwyn’s throat and he rouses groggily. While Ammonite and Brynn are occupied with Alix, Calwyn sneaks into the forest to hide; but when our two ensorcelled companions notice, they become irrational and storm after him.
This cannot be happening.
I run after Ammonite, but Brynn tries to stop me and stabs me in the back as I push past him. (I cannot believe a companion of mine has done this.) I am bleeding in several places. A short distance ahead, I hear a grunt as someone falls and I do not think it is Ammonite. Alix gets past Brynn, but I fear it may be too late to save Calwyn.
Calwyn is dead. I don’t know how it happened. Ammonite claims Calwyn attacked them and I fear it is probably true. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Nothing can change the fact that the forest has turned us against each other and now one of us is slain.
I bear his broken body back to our sanctuary and we yell and scream at each other for a while until we decide to trek back to the town of Akkaron to seek aid.
Shipwrecked: The Minnow
The wind howls and the ship starts pitching ferociously. The call comes down from above: 10 minutes and The Minnow will be on the rocks. We’re crammed in a cabin with Calwyn’s corpse and a priest of Elloran who has pledged to preserve our friend’s remains until we find someone to perform a resurrection. (The token of Elloran given us when we left the Eye served us well.)
We all start rummaging through our gear. My heart pounds up in my throat as I decide what gear I will be able to swim with. I’m not a great swimmer. I’ve only done it a couple of times to cross a flooded river. I fear we are all going to die. I strap my longsword and the ranger’s club to my back and check the fastening of my belt pouch. The rest of my gear will have to stay.
Calwyn will have to stay. Farewell my friend.
We stagger up on deck to find The Minnow pitching almost horizontal, water sweeping, engulfing, flattening. The ship is completely out of control and there are cliffs looming dark and treacherous ahead. I grab Ash to my side and hold on for my life.
Ammonite is swept into the water and Alix jumps in. Brynn and I are still clinging to something as The Minnow twists and rolls and spins. Walls of towering water. Oh blessed Emrys preserve us!
The Minnow wrenches to a grinding halt and we’re thrown into the water. It’s freezing. I don’t know which way is up. My limbs pump madly and my lungs are bursting. I splutter to the surface and almost weep when I discover Ash is still right with me. He swims like a champion.
I swim and flail and try desperately to grab hold of the rocks at the base of the cliff. Three times I succeed, only to be swept off again by a wave and smashed against the rocks before I can clamber to safety. Ash makes it more easily and crouches all bedraggled where he can watch me. I can’t see any of my other companions. All I can do is battle against this angry ocean and try desperately not to drown.
My strength is failing. Another minute and the water will suck me down down down.
I am being lifted. This is not what I thought death would be like. Below me the waves continue to seethe and Ash lifts his pale head and howls farewell…
Things are not good
I’m not dead. It’s the day after we were shipwrecked and I’m sitting in the cramped house of an obnoxious drunk woman in the port town of Dayrast.
Alix, Brynn, Ammonite and my beloved Ash all survived and, thanks to the inscrutable mage Abhorran, we were transported to the town of Akarron by nightfall yesterday. (As to the specifics of how he managed this, I’m not entirely clear. I am even less clear as to why he rescued us.)
The bottom line:
- There do not appear to be any further ships leaving this cursed island this side of winter. We may be stuck here for months.
- The wreck of The Minnow is not yet known in the town. However, not realising this, we asked some questions and thus have drawn unwanted attention to ourselves. It turns out our appearance in Akkaron last night and Dayrast today is impossible (without magical intervention), even given our survival of the wreck.
- Being northerners, we stand out in this community. There are witnesses who saw us board The Minnow and they are already questioning our presence. It is only a matter of time before we are in serious shit.
- Most of our gear is gone. Our friend is gone. Ammonite is consumed with guilt. We have some coin, but not much.
Our current (temporary) lodgings are thanks to a new acquaintance. He’s an odd chap, name of Squirrel. I can’t quite figure him out, but if we’re stuck here all winter it will be useful to have someone to assist us. I’m not sure whether we can trust him yet. Probably not.
But for the moment we’re lodging with Squirrel’s drunken aunt while we figure out what the hell we’re going to do now…