Pelorday, Septantus 6, 1017 A.G. – morning at a pond near Gardmore Abbey
Looking around, we find we have arrived safely in a pond about 1.5 miles east of Gardmore Abbey. The pond is located in a quiet, grassy meadow with a scattering of trees. A little off to the side we see a path leading from the King’s Road, ending at a gate and gatehouse on the hillside. The gate, flanked by two towers, is foreboding, dowdy & overgrown with vines and weeds. There is also a 30 ft. wall, extending off into the distance on both sides. Above, further up the hillside we can see what appears to be a temple. After quickly leaving the pool, we cautiously approach the gatehouse seeing signs of recent foot traffic. Estimating that these tracks are only about 3 days old, we recognize some of the tracks are humanoid, some are horses and some are Giants, going in both directions. Closer yet, we stop and listen, hearing snoring sounds coming from the gatehouse. Looking southward, we notice that the wall down there is draped in ivy with a thick forest on each side. In the middle of this area we also note that there appears to be a gap in the wall. Even further down, we glimpse a tall watchtower where a steep cliff begins.
Turning our attention back to the gatehouse, we now hear movement. I guess we were not as quiet as we thought we were as the occupants are awake now. Much to our dismay, we see at least 2 Orcs on the battlements, with the sounds of more inside. Below the battlements we see an Ogre moving into position, ready to throw a chunk of broken masonry at us if we get any closer. So we backtrack a little and then head in a southeasterly direction, staying out of range and taking cover from several tree copses, but still close enough to view the wall. As we are moving off we hear a gruff voice yell “Don’t worry, the Owl Bears will get them!” And another laughs, “I wanted to barter with them – their lives in exchange for ale!”
As we continue, the trees have become denser until we find ourselves in a heavily forested area. Itzehl summons Basil and has him scout out the area. He sees the gap in the wall, sees there is room on each side of the wall that we could scale it and also sees a walkway along the top of the wall but it has no guards nor patrols. Stealthily we approach the wall, zigzagging thru the trees, then hugging it until we reach the gap. Now Basil has a good view of the hillside which is steep and wooded. Off to one side he sees a tangle of growth – what appears to be an ancient Fey garden. In another areas, he sees a Bell Tower, a cottage, a shrine and a small grove of trees shining golden in the sunlight as if autumn has come early. The forest teems with natural, pleasant wildlife and my heart sings. When Itzehl mentions the shrine, Ungus says it is common for Ioun to have a shrine, oftentimes built around a fountain or pool. So with hopes of finding the Font of Ioun and Basil scouting in circles, we set our course toward the shrine.
It’s a steep climb but we arrive at the shrine and indeed find the Font of Ioun! Its sparkling water sits in the middle of a mosaic tiled wall with shapes of a platinum Dragon and a silver Stag capped by mini runes. With one look at the runes, Ungus says these are instructions to perform a “Remove Affliction” ritual. YES! He thinks the Dragon tile could be a representation of Bahamut but is not sure of the Stag. Itzehl will have Basil continue to patrol while we enter the font. Just as we are about to enter the water we hear a tiny female voice whispering “Do you think they will be greedy and ask too much of Ioun?” Ever cautious, Kuiperia tells us to wait as she goes to investigate. About 75 feet away she stealthily approaches the sounds of soft music and otherworldly singing voices. She can also see a beautiful soft glow in the trees and peers ahead to see 5 gorgeous females, lounging around a small pool, ringed with perfectly shaped, beautiful white birch trees and a beautiful sun filled light splashing upon them. The women are giggling and whispering and they know Kuiperia is there but are not letting on at first. One of them whispers “Who wants to play a game?” Kuiperia recognizes them as Autumn Nymphs and knows that they can be playful, flighty and mischievous. She comes back to us and reports what she has seen. I am adamant that we bathe in the font first, in order to heal ourselves. My companions agree as we determine to visit the Nymphs after our restorative bath.
After reading the ritual instructions out loud to us, Ungus is the first to enter the water, followed by myself. He performs the ritual and we immerse ourselves under the crystal clear water, holding our breath for 30 seconds then coming back up. Ungus then chants more lines to complete the ritual as a wave of euphoria washes over us. Looking at my reflection in the water, I see my beautiful blonde hair has been restored to me and all my other afflictions are gone. I look at Ungus and see that he has also been restored – perhaps better than even before. The very last part of the ritual requires us to partake of the font’s water. Through Ungus’ religious insight however, we are warned to take one and ONLY one gulp of the water. When he drinks the water he has a vision of a massive battle at the top of Gardmore Abbey as it happened over 150 years ago. He also gets a minor, temporary tweak in his power. I also drink and receive a vision but mine is of a Paladin knight performing an awe-inspiring deed and I also get a boon. Momentarily lingering, we feel the temptation to take a second drink, so we quickly jump out. Now it is Itzehl’s turn to enter the font, along with a struggling, bound and gagged Tralf. Following Ungus’ instructions, she forces the kid under with her. When she completes the ritual they are both back to normal but now he is afraid of her. Ungus takes some of the water in his hands and forces him to drink some of it. He has a vision of some monks laboring at a craft and wants to know what is going on. He is still very much afraid but we all tell him what is going on and slowly calm him down. Itzehl drinks the water and sees the same vision that Ungus did. As she is drinking, the kid tries to get a second gulp but Ungus quickly holds him back as we all yell “NO”! Itzehl and Ungus continue talking to him and he seems fine now so we untie him. Now it is time for Kuiperia and Etupio to take their turn in the water. Once again, the ritual is performed and they are returned to normal, although Kuiperia, who had shaved her head, is still bald. Kuiperia has a vision similar to mine while Etupio has a vision of the Gardmore Abbey standing firm against all onslaughts for decades before succumbing to a final battle. Both Kuiperia and Etupio also receive a minor boon. Then Etupio also tries to get a second gulp as Kuiperia pulls him back. KIDS!
As we get ready to go see what the Nymphs are up to, Ungus says he will catch up with us. He stays behind to give a private prayer of thanks to Ioun. As he does so, she responds that we are welcome to come back and drink from the font each time we ascend a level in powers. As the rest of us are approaching The Whispering Grove, we spot the 5 Nymphs who are dressed in beautiful gowns made of autumn leaves. They are shining and shimmering in the morning sunlight. As we get closer we hear them giggle and one says “welcome mortal. Will you play our game?” We stand at the edge of their clearing which has a small pond in the center, ringed by beautiful, perfectly shaped trees. They want us to share a secret with them and then they will share a secret with us. Each one of us must stand with one of them. We select our Nymph and then Ungus shows up. Because Tralf has also stood next to one, there is none left for Ungus and he doesn’t know what is going on anyway. Tralf’s Nymph says she doesn’t want to hear a secret from a child, she wants to hear “the old Dwarf’s secret!” Tralf slinks away and pouts. Ungus asks what would happen if the game is played incorrectly or if they don’t like our secret. She says they will steal our life energy and they giggle again! Disregarding this threat, I go first, telling my secret out loud. I tell her that I have a long lost son I have never seen and he and his mother were rumored to be in the Nentir Vale somewhere. All the Nymphs make cooing sounds over that and then giggle again. Kuiperia shares her secretly privately but her Nymph wants her to be more specific, so she does. Itzehl’s Nymph comforts her as she shares her secret. The solitary Nymph (still waiting for Ungus) also steps to Itzehl and comforts her, both of them being saddened by what they heard. Etupio’s Nymph is moved to tears by his secret and also comforts him. Now it is their turn to share a secret. My Nymph tells me “the Halfling apprentice has recruited a new company of adventurers. They seek to find the Moon Sword before you do.” (Most likely this is Tobolar Quickfoot.) Etupio’s Nymph says “we are told that in the ruined gardens a man lies trapped in a giant spider web.” Ungus then steps to the lone Nymph and shares a secret with her. He then learns from her that a trio of assassins has been hired to kill us. She says “watch out for the dark-eyed mace wielder. The mace is more deadly than it appears.” Itzehl’s Nymph then says “someone nearby wants Gem.” I just start to ask all the Nymphs if we are permitted questions when we hear a female scream. Sounds like it is coming from uphill near the bell tower. They pretend to be afraid and giggle as they scatter and disappear. I sigh, let’s go investigate. We go up the hill and see the partially ruined tower standing in rocky terrain and scattered trees. A pale, slender figure with long silvery hair is running thru the grove being chased by two feline type creatures. Each one of them has 6 limbs which seem to be phasing in and out of view. She stumbles and bangs her head on the rocks as they pounce on her with long tentacles. At the same time, we see 3 rustling winged creatures on top of the bell tower preparing to take flight at the smell of blood. Itzehl summons Gem just as we call our battle cry!
*The battle starts out slowly with the two Displacer Beasts causing us concern but after I bloody one of them, Kuiperia finishes it off. During the battle Itzehl administers a healing potion to the woman as Ungus can’t get away from the other beast. The woman becomes conscious and recognizes Itzehl. From my vantage point I can see that she is an Eladrin. I wonder if she is the one. After a moment she stands up, charges and attacks the remaining beast. I’m impressed! Itzehl bloodies it and I finish it off. Meanwhile the 3 Dire Stirges, which haven’t been doing much other than being annoying, fly away.
I run over to Itzehl and the Eladrin woman and see she is not the one. But she addresses me by name and title. I inquire as to whom I have the honor of meeting and she says her name is Analastra Velfarren. I say that I understand Berrian Velfarren has been looking for me. She says he is her brother and then asks a favor of us. Basically she wasn’t supposed to wander off alone and wants us to cover for her so Berrian doesn’t chastise her. Her wounds are still bleeding but Ungus is tired and needs a few minutes before he can fully heal her. She says “shall we go meet my brother?” She advises us to be quiet though as Berrian is trying to drive off some Owl Bears. We follow her to where Berrian is standing and she makes introductions. She tries to convince him that she helped us drive off some beasts and that is how she got hurt. So Kuiperia and Itzehl assist her with her lie, while Ungus makes her sit and heals her wounds. I prefer not to lie so I don’t say much, as I observe this Eladrin who has my presents. He seems to be an arrogant fop, not at all how most Eladrin from my city behave. He doubts his sister’s story but changes the subject as he turns his attention to me. I state that I understand he has some gifts for me from my family and apologize for making him wait. He’s really pissing me off now with his condescending attitude, however I want my presents so I hold my tongue. First he hands me a small jewelry box. Upon opening I find two stunningly beautiful Astral Diamonds which take my breath away. He says he looked at them before and they are worth 10,000 gp each. They are accompanied by a gift card from my parents. Next he hands me a large swan feather from my Great-uncle Lord Calenon Thray. There is a small card with instructions on how to use. When placed in water, it unfolds and becomes a swan-shaped boat capable of holding up to five people – worth about 21,000 gp. Lastly he hands me a leather sack with a note from my Uncle Agapanthus. It is called a Handy Haversack and can magically hold up to 1000 pounds but never weighs more than 1 pound! The sack is worth about 5,000 gp. Feeling something inside, I reach in and pull out a case of 12 bottles of the finest Fey Wine. Worth – PRICELESS! Oh Uncle Agapanthus – you know me!
Now Berrian continues with his attitude, going so far as to call my companions names. Each one is capable of defending themselves and they do. I find my hands twitching for an arrow as I put him in his place. Without an apology, he changes the subject again and asks why I am here in this land. I tell him I am adventuring, saving the world, etc., and also I am looking for Lisiantha Amastacia (Starflower) who may be traveling with a 10 year old boy. I ask if either he or Analastra have seen them. They both say they have not. Then he pulls out an ivory card with a “Star” on it and asks if I have seen any like it. Not wanting to give ourselves away, I say that I might have, why does he ask. He says this pesky thing has been calling for “Gem” and its voice is getting louder in our presence. Itzehl becomes noticeably stern and agitated as she insists he hand “Star” over to her! (She whispers to Kuiperia that there is no way he is leaving with that card!) Oh boy, here we go!