The party arrives in Erik’s home town of Trannyth so the lone human in the party can pay a visit to his adoptive elven father, Varna. Aramil asks about Erik’s relationship with his parents, and Erik attempts to explain his strained connection to his adoptive parents, and relates the story of what he knows of his birth parents, with his adoptive father having an affair with his birth mother and then taking Erik into his family thinking he was his own bastard son, but then realizing he wasn’t, and how Erik later slept with the Queen of the Empire of Nerath to discover that his birth mother is now married to the vile Sir Uthrin, whose kingdom was somewhat warring with Verind’s Edge and the Empire of Nerath before it was destroyed… Aramil tries to listen attentively, only letting his eyes glaze over a little, and eventually nods with a “So, it’s complicated…”
A Chilling Reception
Walking through the town, Perin recognizes some old acquaintances, as he spent some time hunting in the forests of Quinalyn. Invicto and The Zaza, the only two party members who haven’t spent significant time in Quinalyn are quite taken with the raised homes built into and on the trees of the town. The party’s entourage of Verind’s Edge survivors heads into the center of town to find a tavern at which to pass the time. Erik remembers the streets of Trannyth well, and figures he should get straight to what he came for. The party soon turns onto a quaint wooded lane, and Erik is flooded with memories of his childhood. His parents’ home stands in the shadow of several massive trees. A richly adorned house, it is one of several homes in Trannyth that was constructed to stand on its own, rather than built into a tree. Erik strides up and knocks on the front door.
A servant he doesn’t recognize answers the door. The servant is quite taken aback with the motley crew that appears armed to the teeth. He asks them to state their business, and Erik says he would speak with Varna. The servant asks if he has an appointment and Erik replies that he does not, but just to tell Varna that Erik has arrived to see him. The servant informs the party that the master of the house is currently not in, but that he will ask the lady of the house if she will see them. Erik nods begrudgingly and lets out a sigh once the servant closes the door. Erik’s relationship with his adoptive mother, Brenys, was abrasive to say the least. She never really accepted the human as her son, and was glad to see Erik go when he finally struck out on his own.
The door opens and Brenys stands in the entryway with a vitriolic gaze. She is well-dressed and adorned with a variety of gaudy jewelry. Erik offers, “Hello, mother.”
Brenys replies, “Erik, I’m so disappointed to see you again.”
Erik ignores the remark. “I’ve just arrived from the Boundary Lands. We were serving in Verind’s Edge when war broke out with the orcs and goblins of the Torin Plains and the city was destroyed.”
Brenys seems incredibly uninterested in hearing Erik speak. She cuts him off, “I still don’t understand why Varna didn’t just toss you in the river when you were a babe. Get out of my sight and take your human stink with you.” She promptly shuts the door in Erik’s face.
The party is silent for a moment, and Erik says, “Well, let’s go get hammered!” The party heartily agrees and heads back to the center of town to find the nicest pub Trannyth can offer. Erik briefly recalls meeting a former servant of his father, Gregor, in Verind’s Edge some time ago, and wonders if he could track him down, but he has no idea if Gregor made it out of the city before the attack, or even if he would head back to Trannyth after Verind’s Edge was destroyed. He puts it out of his mind, and the party heads into the pub and commences the drowning of sorrows. They are only about thirty minutes in when an older elf walks into the pub that Erik recognizes. The man is Elkas, a servant of Erik’s adoptive father. He scans the room, spots Erik, and heads straight to him.
“Erik, I’m so sorry about Brenys. Your father would have given you a much warmer welcome. These past few years, he has spoken often of how much he regretted how you were treated, and how he wanted to make amends for sending you away. He even spoke to me about making some changes to his will to include you. Unfortunately, he went to visit your brother, Luwin, about two months ago and hasn’t returned. Luwin sent word that your father fell ill, and that he has been caring for him there in his town. If you haven’t heard, Luwin bought up the lands and title of a debt-ridden noble deep in the forests of Quinalyn – a small village named Osteros.” Elkas glances down at the bar and lowers his voice. “I’m worried about Varna.”
“You think he’s in danger?” Erik asks.
Elkas purses his lips. “I shouldn’t say any more. I just wanted to let you know how your father felt. I should get back to the house before Brenys notices my absence.” He nods to Erik and takes his leave.
Asking around the pub, the party discovers that the small village of Osteros is somewhat on the way to Arastur. They decide to pay a visit to Luwin and to check in on Varna. They promptly take their leave of Trannyth and travel southwest for a few days. Osteros is somewhat off the well-travelled roads of Quinalyn, in some of the deeper, more dangerous woods, so the party decides to leave their entourage of Verind’s Edge survivors in a larger city near Osteros while they pay Luwin a visit. They travel for a couple days on their own through thickening forests and wild underbrush and arrive in the small village of Osteros as a noonday sun peaks through the tree canopy.
Meeting the Locals
As the party approaches the city, Aramil decides it might be smart to separate himself from the party. Assuming Luwin’s intentions are sinister, the eladrin thinks the party might benefit from having an ally in town that Luwin doesn’t know is connected to them. So, he decides to hang back for a few hours, letting the rest of the party go into the town on their own first. He’ll then follow them into town near sunset, posing as an independent traveler.
As the party enters the small town, they can see a large keep standing on a raised hill in the distance, towering over the village. It actually includes stone construction, though vines cover its walls and towers. The party decides to look around the town before calling on Luwin in the castle. Unfortunately, the village is so small there are really no public areas to be found. They do make their way to the center of the village where there’s a small marketplace with some activity. As the party walks into the market they draw inquisitive looks from the villagers there, some looking concerned and disapproving. The party notices that all of the villagers are elves and eladrin.
A huge, hulking elf emerges from the crowd and approaches the party. Most elves are slender and graceful in their physique, but this elf is thick and brutish, the biggest elf the party has ever seen. His teeth are filed into points and he approaches with a gruesome smile. He addresses Perin in elvish. “What is an elf doing with this trash?”, he asks derisively and indicates the party with his hand.
Perin attempts to play along and responds in elvish, “Sometimes the hunter must walk with the prey.”
This draws a sharp laugh from the villager. The rest of the party isn’t sure what transpired. Erik recalls a little elven from his childhood, and gathers that the villager called them trash and then Perin made some joke about hunting. The hulking elf turns to the rest of the party and speaks in broken common, “You not welcome!”
Erik speaks up and says, “Are you the person in charge here?”
The elf laughs and says, “Yes, Brakkus in charge!” This draws chuckles from the villagers, who have now all stopped to watch the exchange.
Perin interjects to say that Brakkus should stop squabbling with these lesser creatures. He tells Brakkus he looks like he would be an impressive hunter and asks him about the largest kills he’s taken down. Brakkus is flattered and says that maybe he’ll hunt with Perin later, but the elf then turns his attention back to the rest of the party. “You not welcome! You go!”
The party looks at each other, not sure where this will lead. Suddenly a short, thin elf emerges from the crowd, calling out, “Welcome to our fair city, visitors! I apologize for the townsfolk, they aren’t used to visitors. Brakkus, back to work!” The gathered crowd begins to dissipate. The new elf introduces himself as Calwyn and invites the party to follow him up to the keep, explaining that the town doesn’t have an inn, and visitors are welcome to stay in the castle. The party agrees to follow him and heads out of the marketplace.
As they leave, Brakkus calls out, “Enjoy your stay at the castle!” and the comment draws laughs from the villagers. The party notices one young eladrin woman in the marketplace that doesn’t join in the laughs, however. Standing by a vegetable cart with a half-filled woven basket, she instead has a look of concern as she gazes at the party.
More Suspicious Behavior
As the party heads out of the village and up to the castle Calwyn asks the party what they are visiting Osteros for. Erik says that they wish to visit Varna. Calwyn seems a little surprised at the request and thinks for a moment. “Yes, I believe he has fallen ill. I’ll have to check with Master Luwin as to whether you can see him. He might not be in a condition for visitors.”
Erik is a little suspicious of this response, but tells Calwyn to inform Luwin that Erik is here to see Varna. Calwyn leads the party through the massive wooden doors of the castle into a large, open courtyard. Servants bustle about underneath a single massive oak tree in the center of the courtyard. The tree is an impressive sight and its branches extend up above the castle’s walls. Calwyn leads the party to the right through the courtyard, through a side door into a set of wooden buildings constructed along the stone walls of the castle. He shows the party up to a large room on the second floor overlooking the courtyard. It is not finely adorned by any means, really just an open room with six cots arranged throughout and one small wash basin in one corner of the room. Calwyn informs the party that he will speak to Luwin about them and be back shortly.
As soon as Calwyn leaves Perin heads out to go back and speak to the villagers further. He specifically seeks out Brakkus, whom he seemed to actually have a good rapport with, even though the hulking elf was trying to kick his friends out of the village. The ranger finds Brakkus on a street just off the marketplace. He is apparently the town blacksmith as Perin finds him hammering away on an anvil. Perin approaches and strikes up a conversation.
The quiet ranger has little training in the social arts and has never been known as someone with a silver tongue, but for some reason he develops quite a connection with Brakkus and soon has the blacksmith opening up to him. He quickly picks up on the fact that Brakkus is highly intolerant of any races other than elves and eladrin and gets the impression that most of the village feels the same way. He manages to get Brakkus talking about how he feels about his new ruler, Luwin. Brakkus clearly likes Luwin and is excited that he came to power in Osteros. At one point Brakkus mentions that, “Luwin knows how to take care of those who don’t respect nature…” Perin tries to get him to elaborate, but Brakkus clams up after making the lone suspicious comment.
The ranger keeps his eyes peeled as he talks with Brakkus, trying to spot the young eladrin woman from the marketplace who offered the party a concerned look while the rest of the villagers chuckled at Brakkus’s comment about the castle. Perin’s eyes are incredibly sharp, but unfortunately the woman never comes by. After whiling away the afternoon speaking to Brakkus, Perin heads over to a small tavern in the village market to grab a drink.
In the meantime, Calwyn returns to the party’s room and informs Invicto, The Zaza, and Erik that Luwin has brought in a healer from Arastur who is currently performing a lengthy healing ritual on Varna. Unfortunately, the healer cannot be disturbed, so the party will not be able to visit Varna tonight, but Calwyn assures the party they will be able to see him tomorrow morning when the ritual is complete. Calwyn also says that Luwin is honored that his brother has come to visit him and that the party is all invited to attend a dinner with Luwin tonight.
After Calwyn leaves, the group decides to explore the castle a little and see if they can actually find this room where the healing ritual is being performed. They assume Varna would be in the large keep on the north end of the courtyard but they are turned away by guards when they try to enter the keep itself. So, they return to their room and wait for dinner.
As the sun begins to set, Aramil heads into town and finds his way to the central marketplace. He gets some inquisitive looks from the villagers, being an outsider, but as an eladrin he is not accosted at all. He finds the small tavern in the market and heads inside, where he sees Perin and a couple other villagers sitting at the bar. He pretends to not know Perin, and sits down and orders a drink of wine.
He makes some small talk with the bartender, an elf named Gryll. Aramil claims that he has been collecting various rare herbs from the forests in the area. Perin and Aramil both order a plate of food, and as the sun goes down Gryll tells Aramil that this small building offers no room and board. He’ll need to head up to the castle to look for a place to stay for the night. They take in most visitors. He also tells Perin that he’ll probably want to head up there himself. Master Luwin doesn’t take kindly to strangers wandering the village streets after dark.
So, Perin and Aramil head up to the castle. Perin joins the rest of the party in their room just as they’re about to head down for dinner. Aramil speaks to the guards about lodging and Calwyn eventually comes out to greet him and sets up the eladrin with a guest room right next to the party. He also extends Aramil an invite to join the Master of the village for dinner, so the entire party heads to the keep to eat with Luwin.
Luwin actually greets Erik somewhat cordially, though Erik doesn’t believe for a second that Luwin is happy to see him at all. The elf echoes Calwyn’s earlier story about bringing in a healer from Arastur for Varna, and that the party will be able to see him in the morning. Aramil, posing as someone not associated with the party, manages to make a good impression on Luwin. After mostly strained and awkward conversation, the gathering ends, and the party is escorted back to their rooms by guards.
The Real Dinner
When the party gets back to their rooms they find a note awaiting them on one of their cots.
You are in grave danger here. If you want to live, leave Osteros immediately and never return.
The party is now officially done waiting for something to happen and they decide to seek out Varna and get out of this town. Perin plans to climb out a window and use his stealth training to try to slip into the keep and find Varna. The Zaza on the other hand, decides to head out into the castle to try to talk up some of the guards and get some inside information. As Perin opens the window he notices the courtyard is eerily quiet and empty.
Aramil, in the room next door, also notices the courtyard is totally empty, after bustling with activity just an hour or so ago. Disturbingly, he would also swear that the huge oak tree in the middle of the courtyard is closer to the window. Perin notices the closeness of the tree as well, just as The Zaza attempts to leave the room and finds the door is locked from the outside. Perin decides it’s definitely time to get out of the room and climbs out of the window down into the courtyard as The Zaza slams into the door trying to bust it open.
As Perin hits the ground of the courtyard he turns to find the huge oak tree beginning to move and sway. Its branches begin writhing and suddenly a hollow face appears in the trunk of the massive tree. Perin immediately realizes he is dealing with a Treant and readies his bow. The living plant approaches him with a hungry gaze, and the elf attempts to call out to it before battle is joined.
Taking a shot in the dark, Perin asks “Wait, don’t you want to be set free?”
A deep, rumbling laugh rolls out from the trunk of the tree. “I am no prisoner here. My master keeps me well fed.”
“Your master would let you eat a fey creature such as me?”
“My master usually does not let me eat elves, but he has made an exception for you.” The treant’s face breaks into a twisted, hollow smile.
“Well, you should beware of the magical fire the wizards above can wield,” Perin offers.
“I am not concerned with your piddling threats, little elf. Enough talk!” The treant advances but Perin manages to slide away to the south end of the courtyard before it reaches him.
The Killing Tree
The treant has caught the eye of the rest of the party and they prepare for battle. The Zaza manages to awkwardly climb out of the window and down into the courtyard, despite her weighty plate mail. Aramil simply fey steps from his window into the courtyard next to the tree and distracts the tree to give The Zaza a solid shot at it with her axe. Perin skitters up a set of stairs on the south end of the courtyard to get a good vantage point with his bow.
Invicto and Erik begin launching magical attacks at the tree from their vantage point up in the room, but the treant has some surprises in store for the party. Several of its long branches stretching above the courtyard begin coming to life and reach down to entwine around the party members. The living branches all sport massive thorns and they tear into several party members, even reaching into the windows of the room to wrap around Invicto and Erik. Perin finds two sets of branches wrapping around his legs and waist. The ranger quickly plants a couple arrows into the branches, point blank, and then shrugs off the dead limbs. He then bolts up the stairs and leaps from one ledge to another across the courtyard. The elf barely makes it across, tumbling onto the other ledge and nimbly leaping to his feet.
Aramil, Invicto, and Erik all take swipes at the branches entwining them and manage to cut, or burn, them off. The Zaza tries to plant her axe into the treant’s trunk but is unable to get through its tough exterior. The treant itself swings a massive wooden fist at The Zaza but misses. It then lashes out with a thorny branch and manages to hit The Zaza and she feels a burning poison seep into the wound. Fortunately, with an encouraging shout from Aramil, The Zaza is able to shrug off the effects of the poison.
With the thorny branches eliminated, the party begins focusing on the treant. Perin takes careful aim, but somehow misses three of his shots in a row, a rarity for the elf. Invicto and Erik manage to pour some arcane fire onto the tree, setting the wooden creature aflame. It howls in pain and rage and extends several more branches into the party’s room to assault Invicto and Erik. As one branch boldly attempts to wriggle behind Erik to get in a better attacking position the wizard sees an obvious opening in the branch’s defenses. Having no melee weapon to speak of, the mage winds up his fist on the end of one long, scrawny arm, and manages to deliver a precise blow to the branch, cracking it down the middle and leaving it lifeless.
The party’s luck doesn’t stop there, as they continue their barrage of attacks on the treant. The creature does manage to at least wrap one thorny branch around The Zaza and drag her out of its way, allowing it to charge up to the edge of the party’s room where Invicto and Erik are hiding. Aramil then positions himself to execute the Myrmidon Formation with The Zaza, making a strong defensive wall against the treant’s attacks. The treant ignores the melee fighters and gets in a few blows on the magic-users in the second floor room, but the damage has been done. Invicto wraps the treant in the Flames of Phlegethos and Erik summons a magma beast to help heap more fiery attacks on to the creature and it is soon defeated.
Perin the Miracle Worker
The treant tips over backward and falls into the courtyard. As it does, the creature’s roots rip up out of the ground as its trunk goes horizontal on the earth. The party is horrified to see numerous bodies in various states of decay held within the treant’s roots. Most of them are skeletons, but a few look almost like mummified remains – bodies that have been drained of their life, leaving only a dry, wrinkled husk. The party spies one body tangled in the roots that looks pale and haggard, but possibly still alive. What’s more, Erik recognizes it as Varna.
The wizard rushes to his adoptive father’s side and disentangles him from the treant’s roots. His breathing is shallow, but with prompting he manages to open his eyes and give a weak cough. He is shocked to see Erik above him, but he is immediately grateful for the chance to see his adopted son one more time before passing. Varna is sure he is not long for this world, but motions Erik near.
The old elf speaks in a cracked whisper, “I’m so glad to see you again, my boy. I never should have sent you away, treated you how I did. I’m sorry.”
“What happened?” Erik asks.
“I discovered Luwin’s secret, this dark tree…”
“What was he planning to do with it?” Erik continues
Varna shakes his head slowly. “I don’t know what his plans were, but when I discovered it he gave me over to it to die.” Varna’s voice fades and he coughs weakly. “I don’t have much time, Erik. There’s something I want you to have. In the bottom drawer of my desk at home. It is for you. Do not tell my wife of it. It’s the least I can do for you…” Varna’s eyes close and he drifts into unconsciousness. Erik looks around desperately as his father slips away.
Perin steps up and offers to examine Varna’s wounds. The elder elf seems surely destined for the afterlife, but Perin is confident in his skills as a healer, and his own extraordinary luck. He quickly mixes a batch of rare herbs together and applies the mixture to the numerous jagged cuts the thorny roots of the treant left on Varna’s body. The rest of the party is anxious to leave as they start to hear activity in the castle. Varna is clearly beyond the help of any healer, and Perin has no hope of stabilizing the aged elf.
Nonetheless, Perin simply stays focused on his work and his patient as he grinds several more rare herbs with a few drops of water to make a foul-smelling, thick liquid that he dribbles on to Varna’s lips. After a few moments, the dying elf suddenly draws in a deep breath of air. Perin can feel his hearbeat stabilize and his breathing become regular. The ranger, along with the rest of the party, is amazed at his work, as it appears he has snatched Varna back from the jaws of certain death.
The party has no time to celebrate as more noise can be heard in the castle. The Zaza throws Varna over her shoulder, and the party breaks into a run for the entrance to the castle on the south side of the courtyard. As they throw the massive doors open they see soldiers start pouring onto the castle walls, calling for the party to halt. With Perin’s sharp eyes leading the way, the party beats a swift retreat straight into the thick, wild forests around the village of Osteros. They can sense soldiers close on their tracks for several hours, but they eventually manage to lose them in the wilds of Quinalyn.
Lands and Titles
The party gives The Zaza a rest and crafts a makeshift stretcher for Varna. They regroup with their entourage of Verind’s Edge survivors and head back to Trannyth. Varna is still weak and sickly throughout the journey, but he is clearly on the mend and slowly regaining his health. Once they reach Trannyth, Varna returns to his home on his own, opting not to put Erik through another confrontation with Brenys. The party rents a room at one of the nicer inns in town and Varna’s servant, Elkas, soon delivers a package for Erik. A note explains that the package is what Varna spoke of giving to Erik as (he thought) he lay dying in the courtyard of Luwin’s castle.
The package includes a unique golden seal on a short leather strap, and a sheaf of very official-looking legal documents. Erik looks over the numerous pieces of parchment and finds a brief summary at the top of the first page.
Will and Testament of Varna Ilstalis Concerning Limited Properties and Ownerships, in the city of Arastur, nation of Quinalyn, Held External to the House of Ilstalis
The bearer of this seal is holder in full of these titles herein concerning the properties and merchant operations residing in the city of Arastur in the nation of Quinalyn, including the property of the residential Redding House on Wystra Lane; the property of the New Moon Merchant House in the Business District; and the business operations, including all assets, inventories, properties, profits, and debts, of the New Moon Merchant Company functioning therein. Presentation of this seal and these papers provides the bearer all rights, responsibilities, and ownership associated with these titles, with an exceptional right to complete and inviolable anonymity as granted by High Chancellor Silvaras on the date 5-12 in the Year 3215.
The note from Varna explains that he had originally intended to leave the properties to Erik as part of his will, but in return for saving his life, Varna felt he should bequeath the titles to Erik now. The properties are held outside of Varna’s house (the house of Ilstalis), so that Brenys and Luwin can lay no claim to them. Rather than place the properties in someone else’s name, Varna arranged for a rare method of ownership – whoever holds the golden seal included with the package is considered the owner of the properties. Furthermore, the holder of the seal does not need to produce any papers of identification or heritage, as they are entitled to full anonymity. They simply must produce the seal to prove their ownership.
The party is pleased to find that they are now, quite suddenly, businessmen and property owners in the city of Arastur. They look forward to finally reaching the city and enjoying their newfound wealth, and the party decides to share a celebratory drink in the tavern. Aramil joins in the merriment, but he can’t help but think about the fact that a villain like Luwin is still loose in the woods of Quinalyn. As the wine flows, the eladrin dreams up a number of creative ways to dole out justice to Erik’s wicked adoptive brother.