Of Wolves and Men
After battling through an initial ambush at the mouth of the cave leading into the wolfs’ den, Glen Weinstein, Eight Thundercloud, and Aryn Limlugeth decided to press on. They entered the cave to find the bones and discarded remnants of the wolf pack’s previous kills strewn about the stone floor. Despite their best attempts to conceal themselves and explore the lair stealthily, the adventurers were on the wolves’ home turf, and they were quickly discovered. The ensuing battle pitched them against not only massive and deadly dire wolves, but also druids who fought back just as fiercely. It was clear that the threat to the balance of nature in Grimwarden Forest went beyond the stray wolf pack.
A Stroke of Luck
In the ensuing battle, the heroes were brought to the edge of death’s door more than once. It was only through a stoke of luck that they did not meet their ultimate end within the walls of that cavern. Lurog of Clan Blacktooth, the orc who the group had befriended at the Lonely Goat Inn, had followed them to into the forest. His mistrust of dwarves made him wary that the adventurers might find themselves in trouble as they had originally left the inn in the company of Craghand Irondelve, the dwarven bounty hunter. Luckily, Lurog had heard the cries of battle echoing from the cave and charged in just in time to help his allies.
One druid, who was gravely injured, managed to slink away in the confusion of battle. After taking a moment to mend their wounds, the heroes set off in search of him, intent on finding some answers. Lurog, though he had business elsewhere in the Greatspire Mountains, agreed to accompany the adventurers as they made their way through the cave.
Following the Trail
The trail of blood left behind by the injured druid led them deeper into the cave. Beyond the initial few caverns, it was clear that the stonework was carved and shaped into hallways, rooms, and passages fit to accommodate humanoid forms. After following a very long tunnel that wound downwards for what seemed like miles below the forest, the Valiant Crowned finally caught up with the fleeing druid. He was kneeling before an altar of some kind on a ledge overlooking a vast, deep chasm. Fresh blood, presumably the druid’s own, pooled on the altar’s surface and ran over the ledge into the chasm via a series of channels carved into the stone floor. Whatever dark ritual the druid had performed had healed him, and he was ready to face battle once again.
Unfortunately for him, Aryn was a quick thinker. Taking advantage of the hazard posed by the ledge, she summoned up a gust of wind with her magical cloak and sent the druid tumbling backward into the abyss. However, he appeared only moments later, riding on the back of some great foul worm-like creature that had climbed up the sheer side of the cliff. Despite the monster’s horrifying appearance, Aryn and the others were able to send it and the druid toppling back into the abyss for good. Looking down, they could see a great pool of water at the bottom, with rivulets of water flowing upwards into the roof of the cavern. They deduced that they were beneath the Moonpool, and that this must be it’s source.
The group had dispatched all present danger, so they decided to take a look around and explore this area hidden deep beneath the Moonpool. They discovered an ancient armory, from which Cupcake armed himself with a shortsword and Rose took a suit of chain-link armor. Beyond another passage, Eight Thundercloud and Aryn discovered a curiously foreboding statue carved of wood. It resembled a humanoid figure, yet the head seemed to sprout tentacles where the mouth should be. It closely resembled the symbol portrayed on the jeweled amulet Glen had taken from Kristoff‘s body. It stood in the same chamber as two locked doors. Despite her proficiency with thieve’s tools, Aryn was unable to pick the locks on these doors. Yet when Glen tried them, the doors opened effortlessly.
The chamber beyond seemed to be a large dining hall of sorts. Upon entering, however, Glen, Aryn, and Eight Thundercloud heard a chime of some sort go off in another adjoining room. Expecting an imminent attack from whatever had just been alerted to their presence, they tried to quickly push the long wooden table over as a sort of makeshift barricade. There was barely enough time to upend the heavy table before an old, gray-haired woman entered the room, flanked by a pair of wolves. She was displeased with the intruders who had disrupted what she called “the will of Ilsensine”, and any hope for a peaceful resolution to the situation quickly dissolved into chaos. She revealed herself to be more than just a druid. Her form stretched and twisted as her hair grew over her body and her teeth enlarged into fangs. She was a werewolf, and she was intent on destroying the adventurers who had wrought havoc in her lair.
The battle was fierce and quick. Lurog dealt with the wolves, while the rest of the group focused on defeating the Wolfmother. In the fighting, Eight Thundercloud was severely bitten, but they were able to destroy the werewolf and put an end to the vicious wolf attacks in Grimwarden Forest once and for all.
A Smashing Good Time
Satisfied that their work here was done, the adventurers returned to the surface, but not before having Lurog smash the stone altar that seemed to be allowing the druids here to taint the Moonpool source with blood sacrifices.
Their return to Kala’s Grove was a joyous one. As promised, Rigel had prepared a hero’s feast for their arrival. Kara Greentree was happy to have the natural order restored once again in the forest and rewarded each adventurer with a valuable (and heavy) bar of silver. She also seemed to sense that something wasn’t quite right with Eight Thundercloud. Indeed, it was determined that the tabaxi had become afflicted with lycanthropy as a result of the bite wounds suffered during the fight with the Wolfmother. Fortunately, the wholesome effects of the hero’s feast prepared for them were potent enough to cure any disease.
It was a difficult decision for Eight Thundercloud. If she chose to embrace lycanthropy, she would become stronger in ways that were difficult to imagine. Yet there would be consequences, as well. She determined in the end to partake of the feast and forgo any chance of losing the best part of herself, her keen mind and curious personality, in exchange for the bestial powers of a werewolf.
Feast, Festivity, and Dreams…
There was much merriment, song, and drink during the feast. Cupcake and Rose, having been through several dangerous adventures together, seemed to be forming a bond of friendship.
That night, Lurog bid the Valiant Crowned farewell. He had to leave to continue pursuing his own quest for vengeance, but he wished them luck and hoped to see them again one day.
As the festivities wound down and the adventurers headed off to their well deserved rest for the night, Glen drifted off into a restless sleep.
He dreamed of a darkness filled with eyes, and a wide, tooth-filled mouth opening wide to devour him…
The next morning, they would set off on a new adventure. But it seemed clear that something was now in motion that was beyond their power to yet comprehend… something connected to that rough wooden statue beneath the Moonpool, and Glen’s amulet.