The team journeyed to the village of Halpstem in the hopes of finding Jimmy Moon’s mother, Lapin Hornraven. Upon their arrival, the group learns that a corruption has fallen upon the marshes near the village, sadly all information point to Hornraven being somewhere in the marsh beyond. Ignoring any of the warnings, the team took a canoe and ventured into the unknown.
After their short obstruction in Halpstem, the team took a canoe and rowed onward to the corrupted marshes ahead in the hopes of finding Lapin Hornraven, Jimmy Moon’s mother, and the source of the blight that plagued the villagers. Once the boat passed underneath the canopy of the mangroves and swamp trees, a perpetuate shade fell upon everything as if the leaves created a proverbial night. The group took notice of the eerie silence, the lack of wildlife or nature, as they rowed towards the very center of the marsh. The half-druid attempted to commune with the natural energies of the swamp, sensing an obscene corruptive force at the very center, but the rest of the marsh felt distorted and warped. A sickness had fallen upon these fens, which Arcaelus deduced to be of magical origin.
Deeper into the marshlands, the group ventured, until Brightiron and Rainer noticed something odd with some of the tree barks on the tree until they began to move. The group started launching an assault of hammers, blades, and spells upon these vile plant creatures, felling them easily. Jimmy Moon transformed into an aquatic dinosaur and provided additional landing points for the group, but then were assaulted by a massive, monstrous frog-like abomination. The creature force most of the group onto the contaminated waters, ignorant of its dangers. After several attempts and well placed strikes, the monster was vanquished by the goliath barbarian. Once the battle was finished, the group began to grow sick from the polluted waters.
“It’s been many moons since the last time I’ve seen you all,” a familiar voice chimed.
The group looked up into the treeline and spotted a female wood elf with dark green leathers, a white bone bow with an all-too-familiar boomerang.
“Thia?” Jimmy Moon hoped.
The wood elf ranger smiled and waved at the team below. “I’m glad to see you’re mostly alive!”
Thia tossed a small blue and white cube down toward the water and a magical canoe sprouted in its place.
“Get in,” she suggested. “I know someone who can help with your ailments, and possibly you may be able to help me as well.”
Once the team got onto the enchanted boat, the ranger jumped from the tree branch to one of the lower ones before magically shifting herself onto the bow of the vessel.
“We should see Mama Baba. She’ll be able to cure you of the disease. Perhaps she’ll be willing to help you in exchange for your aid to cleanse this marsh. When we get there, just let me do the talking.” Thia instructed.
“What have you been doing since the island?” Aydan asked.
“Many things, after we vanquished the dragon, a portal opened up, and I was transported to the Feywild. I met some interesting folks there. Thankfully, I found my way back to the Material Plane afterward. I’ve been protecting the realms and the Veil ever since. Keeping the peace as it were. Though recently, someone has decided to host their dark ritual here in this marsh. The denizens and the villagers here are rather civil with each other, so I sense some other foul play at work.” Thia explained.
“It’s been five years after all,” Arcaelus reminded the group.
Five years, Jimmy thought. For the half-elf druid of Lystrata, it felt like only a few months since he last saw the intrepid elf ranger but the reality was there and time indeed passed while they were gone. Influence by the fragments of a Gem of Azeroth? Jimmy was unsure and knew that such knowledge was better left to the wizard than be troubled by some complex thoughts.
The air grew cool, and the shadows grew long. Night had fallen by the time the group reached an odd hut in another corner of the swamp. Candlelight could be seen creeping out of a small circular window, the smell of the bog permeated here, along with the smell of decay and rot. Thia walked up the circularly shaped door and knocked three times. She waited until the creaking voice of an old woman could be heard from inside, beckoning them to enter. Once inside, the adventurers were greeted by the appearance of many sick and wounded woodland animals wrapped in bandages or on the mend. A small pot boiled gently on an old cast iron stove. Several lanterns hung from the ceiling to light the little hovel. From one of the dark rooms, a large old woman emerged with a tattered dress and greasy grey hair.
“Ah! Thia, my dear! How good it is to see you again. What news do you have for me” The old crone patted the wood elf on the back and gestured her to find a seat amongst the injured animals.
“I found some old friends lost in the marsh, they have unfortunately made contact with the corrupted waters and would use some of your medicine.” Thia pleaded.
The old lady eyed the elven ranger for a moment before peeking beyond her shoulder, eyeing the group for several seconds before grinning to retrieve some flasks from a nearby cupboard. With surprising grace, Mama Baba procured several jars of various ingredients, some medicinal and some unknown. All of the contents were poured into a black pot over the stove and brought to a boil. The smell was unpleasant made several unwell, but the crone continued her work, ignoring their protests as she pours them into the small vials. Once finished, she corked them and proceeded to hand the team one bottle each.
“These are for later, here’s one some left these bowls. Drink up. It will counteract the toxins from this corruption. Sadly, it will not cure you of it. You will need to find the source and destroy it for that to work. I advise you do it soon, very few have the constitution to survive this blight. Make sure you make those responsible suffer, that’s my only price for my aid.” Mama Baba gives a stern but sincere glare at the party.
The team bowed and agreed in unison before drinking the foul tasting concoction. Thia thanked the old crone again and escorted her friends out of the tiny hut.
“Who was that?” Brightiron inquired.
“She’s one of the protectors of these marshes, she can be temperamental at times, but she has a use for us right now, so her price is worthwhile for now. You all should be able to fight without any ill effects for a time before the toxins return. Hopefully, we will have sorted out whatever affliction has fallen here.” Thia replied.
“Have you seen you seen or heard anything strange? Or have you seen who might be responsible?” Rainer pressed.
“Not quite. I heard of activity recently by the Cult of the Dragon several miles north from a few weeks ago. Though I am not sure if this could be their handy work or not.” Thia suggested.
“It could be the cult, while nature’s energy has clouded my vision, I did glimpse the presence of several humanoid beings near the center of the marsh, which I believe there’s a small island there.” Jimmy conferred.
“We should try to conceal our presence before ascertaining what we may be dealing with.” Thia proposed.
The party nodded in agreement, and the wood elf ranger began to whisper words of power as the entire group felt a magical aura overtake their forms. Splashes of paint with leave and wooden patterns covered every inch of the team. Slowly, the group made their way along the cover of night towards the central island. Once they group through the mangroves, the rest of the lake center was full of tall grass, which helped conceal their approach. The island at the center of the island was home to a towering tree, its leaves were long gone, and various shapes could be seen in the distance with torches spread out.
The party landed on the shores of the small island opposite of the group. They spotted half a dozen individuals cloaked in purple and gold robes. Aydan instinctively recognized them as the Cult of the Dragon, Jimmy Moon saw his mother unconscious and chained to a stone nearby, but Rainer saw another recognizable figure: the Dollmaker. The Dollmaker was a mad murderer who belong to the Nest of Shadows, Rainer’s place of former affiliation, and caused the group some trouble early in their adventures. The halfling rogue took the opportunity to strike the assumed cult leader. Unfortunately, the attempt failed, and the ambush was lost. The group tried to capitalize on the opportunity but the moment instant shifted back to the cultists as they returned the onslaught with spells and summoned creatures.
The Dollmaker turned to Rainer, laughing at his former colleague. “Oh Rainer, I had hoped you would find me soon. I have been looking forward to this moment for several months now. I cannot wait to show you my latest pieces to the collection. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with them.”
The madman hysterically laughed as two small undead forms emerged nearby, Rainer recognized them instantly as the undead forms of his deceased wife and daughter. The halfling was speechless. Words were lost to him, consumed by a relentless rage.
“THE GODS DAMN YOU!” Rainer shouted.
The Dollmaker continued to laugh hysterically, laughter that echoed across the marsh under the night sky.
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