Arriving back at the Crescent Lake, Vianna is still ill but she is alive at least and able to conduct the required ceremonies. We set out from the Crescent Lake the following morning after I have made the sacrifice to attune the moonstone without which our mission cannot succeed leaving the injured Aeric with Vianna.
Following the river upstream for several days, we follow it past several confluences with my intuition guiding us. Otherwise, the journey is largely uneventful but for the strange purple stain disfiguring Veein’s face which we have noticed for a few days now.
Eventually we arrive at what appears to be the head of the river, it trickles out of the rocks but doesn’t appear to enter them from anywhere the other side although Calladin is convinced he can hear a waterfall, Marcus can’t and I trust his woodcraft skills so I stay with him while Calladin investigates his strange sounds. Maybe the Fae influence hasn’t entirely left us. After investigating the head of one of the other spurs we return to the original outcrop and Calladin redeems himself finding some markings around one of the small holes we had seen. He ventures into the hole having placed an entertaining wager with Marcus and, once again curbing Holien’s rash behaviour, we tie a rope to one of Calladin’s ankles, not both, so we can pull him back out if he encountered danger.
He ventured down and found that it opened up into a small cavern with a large stone slap in place in the floor at the other exit. I suggest to him that this may well be the stone we are looking for and that it would be unwise for him to venture further, so we trade places and I proceed past the stone down a corridor which ends in a blank door.
I try valiantly to open the door and then exercise all my other skills to persuade any resident on the other side to open it, but to no avail. With the torch burning low I return back along the corridor to the stone whereupon I discover a faint mist arising from a small tunnel that passes under it.
Thinking this may be the well, I drop a moonstone in but when nothing happens I decide that there is nothing for it but to venture down. Calladin has, at this point, rejoined me but stays firmly on the other side of the stone; Holien is nowhere to be seen, probably off sulking at having lost the wager.
I squeeze down the tight passage, just as well I’m not as fond of the beer as Marcus I’m not sure he would have fitted, eventually emerging into an enormous cavern to the sound of a mighty gong, the like of which I have heard once before when we first entered the realm of the Fae. It is an amazing place. For, although it is clearly underground, it is also illuminated as if by faint moonlight. In the centre is a wondrous large pool, or well, but I can also see movement faintly although at this stage I cannot make out what is there.
As I approach the pool a venomous snake slithers out from darkness and attacks me, fortunately, although it looks like the one we saw in the Crescent Lake it is not as large and I manage to fend it off with my torch and soon dispatch it but not before it strikes my leg. Thank the goddess for armour!
As I continue my approach to the pool I feel my mind being assaulted but successfully fend off the onslaught but after a second encounter realise this may be the guardian of the well and, risking all, drop my mental defences allowing the spirit to touch my mind. Once again my intuition proves reliable and the spirit proves to be friendly and, after a short but fascinating conversation, I convince her that I am here to help.
When I reach the lake I see a large rotting carcass floating and manage to grapple it and remove it from the water and then throw the moonstone in whereupon I see the purple stain in the water, similar to that on Veein’s face, slowly fade. Upon returning up the passage that I came down I encounter a small problem. Calladin has foolishly attempted to pass the stone without having been properly attuned and has been rendered unconscious by the magic that protects this place. This means he is completely blocking passage and I have to struggle to push his dead weight, he is a larger man than I am, up and out of the passage. When I finally emerge I discover the reason for Calladin’s rash behaviour. It seems that, while I have only been gone a short while time has passed much faster for them and he came looking for me out of concern.
By the end of this I am thoroughly exhausted and rest up a while waiting for Calladin to regain consciousness. We eventually manage to get Holien’s attention and he hauls Calladin up into the fresh air and I then attempt to pull on the rope to haul the rotting snake’s head out from the cavern that had been fouling the well to remove all trace of the corruption that I can but the barrier between the worlds prevents me from this so I am forced to return and haul it out directly.
As we journey back to the Crescent Lake we see that the stain on the face of Veein has disappeared and can take comfort in the knowledge that we have been successful in this quest. Whatever evil is plotting the corruption of the goddesses has been defeated in this battle at least.
We arrive back at the lake to find Aeric in better health and rest up for the night with some of us having various conversations with Vianna who seems in much better spirits herself too. Whilst preparing to return from the Crescent Lake the following morning we hear news that Valerian is dead so we rush back to the ferry. Marcus takes the first ferry across; Valerian was his responsibility so he needs to return with all haste. Accepting this I arrive at the pub slightly later as the ferry can only take a few of us at a time. I get to Valerian’s room to find a stranger there with Calladin outside the door, they seem to be having a somewhat aggressive standoff but I manage to get past them and into the room. Valerian is lying there with his skin looking a very unnatural green. At this point the stranger starts making a lot of fuss so eventually Marcus demands to talk with him privately. Of course we agree and a while later they emerge having from the room having come to some kind of friendly arrangement.
It appears that the stranger, who answers to the name of Brutin, what an unfortunate name, is a member of the Imperial Watch, or something. I wasn’t completely convinced by this, he just doesn’t look, or dress, like a guard, however Marcus is happy with him so that’s good enough for me, for now at least. It’s not entirely clear exactly what he’s doing here but he has some business and he may be handy in a fight, which I suspect we are due to have a few more of. We finally get round to an investigation of the room and discover a note from Valerian asking us to continue with his quest to avert the emperor’s doom.
After various discussions with the staff at the pub (red stag inn) we get a description of the man probably responsible for Valerian’s murder. Marcus arranges with the landlord to have Valerian’s body sent back home with his personal affects while we make plans to do as he requested. We eventually agree to set off the following morning, so that Holien can sink a few beers, he seems to be developing quite a thirst recently, I am a little concerned, maybe I’ll have a word with Evie when we get back. Ah how I do look forward to that reunion. To feel her sweet caress again; to walk in the meadows on a summer’s evening under the stars with her. I feel that she is perhaps the one for me, maybe I will even be able to settle down, or better still perhaps we could explore this incredible world together. But my past worries me. What if I am in fact already married? I feel an irresistible pull towards the world of the Fae. Maybe I will find some answers there. My soul is restless with this not knowing. But I digress, she does move so …
The following morning we set of across the river and around the Shadow Bog towards Sherfield on Vaugh. Not far from the town we hear a noise which I persuade the others warrants investigation. As we approach the source of the incredible sound the others all hang back leaving me to approach what appears to be some kind of very tall tree of a species I am not familiar. We later discover this to be a Dreaming Tree, a Fae creature perhaps, which are marked on our partially burnt map, giving us hope that we are indeed on the right path to the Vale of Mists that we seek. Even when I approach and touch the wondrous being it remains unaware of our existence. Perhaps we are to small and swift to impinge upon it alien consciousness.
The rest of the journey passes uneventfully, sleeping under the stars – a beautiful experience as always – and we arrive just after sundown and get passage across the river with a local who recommends a local tavern on the waterfront so he takes us directly there. We spend a while talking to the regulars and I entertain them with my lute, unfortunately it’s one of the poorer establishments so my cup only gets a few coppers, but they are pleasant enough. We do however get some luck with the name of Hailheart. It appears a woodsman by that name stops by here from time to time and they kindly give us a description.
The following morning we set off to find this jolly fellow in the forests outside of town. Eventually we spy smoke rising above the trees and venture into the forest to see if this is our woodsman. When we meet him he fits the description perfectly though, strangely, he declines to concede that he is indeed Hailheart however, a financial arrangement is eventually arrived at, curbing Holien’s desire to do the man a disservice, and he agrees to act as a guide for us to the fort.
He does indeed guide us along the road entertaining us with a few of the local stories until at length we arrive at a causeway through some swampland wherein we spy some foul-looking creatures that resemble nothing more than impossibly large slugs. I don’t fancy putting one of them on a line to feed the fishes with. I fancy the fish, or possibly even the fisher, would wind up the tasty morsel. This land is most certainly full of strange things.
Our conversations with this gentleman, whom I will call Hailheart even though he declined the appellation, did reveal a few more of the features of this landscape which I was able to locate on Valerian’s map. He pointed out the roads to Rox Tor and Low Vale and High Vale. All this gives us great hope for the success of our heroic endeavour.
Where and away we come by the town of Low Vale with Hailheart assuring us of a welcome from Sgt Storey; however the man is not to be found at this late hour so we acquaint ourselves with several taverns, Holien and Brutin electing to reside separately from myself and Calladin. It vexes me how he can be related to such a charming creature as Evie for he appears to have no appreciation for the finer points of life. Maybe it’s a soldier’s thing. But I feel sure that I must have met military folks before and found them to be greatly appreciative of my arts, albeit the coarser end of selection. Maybe he is weighed down with the responsibility of our quest.
Nevertheless, I manage to entertain the good folk of the Blue Orchid Tavern and turn a reasonable profit for my troubles. The following day we meet up again and Hailheart introduces us to a young lad who turns out to be the good Sergeant’s son; and a cocky sort he be truly, but likeable enough. He is to be our guide it transpires. As we journey on from the fort towards Low Vale he engages us with tales of some of the goings on around these parts; of how some folk claim to have felt eyes upon them on the road but most memorably of how the Swordmaster of Wingan Fort bested a mighty giant although, so it would seem, he may have had a hand from one stout sergeant. A mighty battle it must have been, and worthy of a bard’s tale. Ah, the stories this quest shall provide, I fancy I’ll dine on them for many a year to come.