The heroes awaken on the cold ground, shivering. It is evening, and cold. It is as if they had stopped in the very spot they recall hearing the flautist, and then made an impromptu camp in the road to Elderwood.
It appears that the journey to the frozen plateau was nothing but a shared dream.
The sort of dream that left the heroes with their pouches full of ancient coins and assorted other treasures, including a silver key.
Also, the sort of dream where the heroes are left wondering where the dream began, and where it might end. While the remaining heroes vividly remember traveling with David and Gwendolyn all the way from the Enclave and across the frozen plateau, their friends are not with them.
In fact, the longer they dwell on the thought, the more fleeting the memories become. It is as if David and Gwendolyn starting this journey is just one more part of the dream, and that memory becomes more ethereal as the dream fades. It is replaced by other memories, full of reasons why David and Gwendolyn could not travel to attend the crypt ranger's wedding.
With nothing else to do, the heroes go about sorting through the treasure. There is less than they remember, as if their dream-friend absconded with a share before fading into memory and back to the Enclave. All told, everyone receives a share equivalent to 527 pieces of gold. Some heroes "buy back" the more valuable gemstones.
As the heroes near Elderwood, Alliama becomes distracted. She stops, listening to the sound of something singing. It is distant, far too distant to make out lyrics or more than the sense of music, but she cannot help but notice it.
The others do not hear it. When Alliama wanders into the forest, toward the sound of the singing, they follow her out of concern.
Alliama is clearly not ensorcelled by the sound, but she is intrigued by the fact that only she can hear it. She wants to investigate, but the heroes know that their opportunity to reach Elderwood in time for the crypt ranger's wedding is about to run out.
Not ready to give up on the mystery, Alliama sets a feathered watcher to wait, about a mile inside the forest. If at any point in the next seven days, the singing creature comes, then the watcher will come for Alliama.
Dechan is also curious about the song. As the heroes set out once again for Elderwood, he casts an abjuration on Alliama to protect her from evil. As the dweomer settles over her, she loses the ability to hear the song. Some time later, when the prayer fades, the song returns. She will hear it throughout the heroes' stay in the town of Elderwood.
The town of Elderwood has never been a particularly important location. Its citizens are farmers, lumberjacks, and crafters. It was founded less than fifty years ago by adventurous colonists.
An elected mayor makes the major decisions for the town, delegating a few tasks to subordinates. This is unusual for Darkon but Baron Clarahd does not mind so long as the taxes continue to reach Nevuchar Springs.
Elderwood's citizens don't care about politics as long as the roads are maintained and goods are reasonably priced. They want only to live peacefully, away from civilization, though the nearness to the "Wildwood" of the elfin ancestral forest, has proven troublesome from time to time.
The heroes arrive in the early hours of the morning, but they are able to get a room at the only inn in town, the Green Bird.
They know that sunrise will come soon, but they dally a moment when the innkeeper, Rice Rina, overhears Dechan and Alliama talking about the song that she still hears. Rice takes an interest, asking about Alliama's elfin blood.
She explains that the nearby "Wildwood" is the reason that no elves call Elderwood home. It is said that elves hear a calling--a song--if they enter the forest. As soon as an elf has the misfortune of hearing it, she is transfixed, her soul trapped by the forest spirits. The elf wanders the wood, drawn to its haunted heart, ans is never seen again.
Alliama takes this to heart. In her room, she ties herself to the bed to remove any chance of wandering off in the night. She asks Big to watch over her.
Then, still worn from the frozen plateau and the hard ride through the Forest of Shadows, the heroes sleep.
The heroes have little time to explore the small settlement of Elderwood, but they see much of the town as they make their way north and east to the wedding site (Letter "E" on the map).
The town looks like a nice, quiet, rural hamlet, complete with stucco houses, well-groomed gardens, and small stone trails. It seems to be primarily inhabited by human folk. The town is largely empty this morning because virtually the entire populatace has already gone to the wedding site.
The heroes pass the smithy (F). They spot the nearby Temple of Tymora (G). And they take note of the town's many watch towers (D).
Festivities for the wedding stretch from a distant stone chapel and rose gardens, past a large, open-air tent, and down to the sun-drenched, tree-lined banks of Stillwater Creek. Though Thaw has yet to fend off the chill of winter on this solstice, music and laughter fill the air. Partygoers call out for attendees to join their games and merrymaking.
From the bridge crossing the creek, Dechan and Alliama realize that the stone shrine is dedicated to Shelyn, a love goddess in the pantheon of Sylvanus.
The heroes first make their way to the bridge and groom, who stand at the fountain at the center of the park. Stone benches stand facing the fountain, prepared for any event from a wedding to a concert.
Elyin the retired crypt ranger and his soon-to-be wife, Kailah, greet their guests here. Elyin takes great delight in welcoming his longtime friends, many of whom he hasn't seen since retiring to Bellis. These friends include three members of a group of crypt rangers called the Foresthawks, named Dorin, Galadon, and Izora.
Kailah Winmede has her own circle of friends to greet. As daughter of the local apothecary, she seems to know everyone in town.
Under the watchful eye of the Foresthawks, Elyin and Kailah greet the heroes. When they attempt to proffer their gifts, a woman named Pavlina directs them to leave their gifts at the Chapel of Shelyn for safekeeping until the reception.
After polite greetings, in which the heroes honor the couple with news that they are emissaries from the Enclave but do not overshadow the special day by revealing their true identities, the heroes split up to enjoy the festivities and see what the village of Elderwood has to offer.
During the conversation with the Elyin and Kailah, Beatrice notices an interesting encounter among the crowd. An unkempt, white-skinned gnome wanders through the crowd. The villagers seem disgusted by or even afraid of the little creature. In return, the gnome seems filled with anger.
The gnome appears, fighting his way through the crowd outside the entrances to the chapel and the rose garden, and then he disappears in the crowd.
Alliama and Carrie first go to the rose garden, next to the Chapel of Shelyn. A wide path leads to a maze of thick, ten-foot-tall hedges with songbirds nesting within them. A few wedding guests stand at the entrance, with one or two occasionally venturing into the maze to explore the flower gardens and statuary inside.
It is clear that these gardens are tended by a druid. Despite the lingering winter chill, the maze is home to many merry songbirds, and the colors remain vibrant.
In addition, the gardener displays several pieces of sculpted art throughout the maze, with benches placed conveniently nearby. A number of wedding guests have already availed themselves of these seats.
Alliama and Carrie examine these sculptures while meeting some of these villagers. They find that the sculptures are decorated with many images of Shelyn and Sylvanus, but there is also a connecting motif of the hawk, which is not a standard symbol of either deity. The hawk appears in several places on each piece, enough to draw the heroes' notice.
Alliama does not just investigate the sculptures, though. She meets Basia, a little girl who feeds the birds with Alli's help.
To Basia's amazement, Alliama speaks to the song birds. She doesn't even need a druidical prayer; she has learned this language. The birds tell Alliama about some elves who walked off upon hearing the song deep in the forest, but they can provide little more of value.
When the birds can share no more, and Basia goes off to find her mother, Alliama and Carrie meet to village men, Caden and Bosch. They relate that it's been about five years since the last elves wandered off in the thrall of the song, maybe more. They say that elves no better than to come to Elderwood because of it.
The call the song the "Elfwhisper." Because of it, no elf could travel to town safely.
When the two heroes direct the conversation back to the event about to transpite, they learn that the caretaker of Shelyn's Grove, Viviana, will officiate. The local druid, Beles, goes on sojourns. Beles is away from town at the moment, in fact. The men suspect he left on purpose, as he outranks Viviana as a druid, but understands that the priestess of Shelyn is much better suited to officiating a wedding.
Apart from the boisterous crowd sits a well-shaded stone structure surrounded by rosebushes. A pair of wooden doors carved with chasings of amorous satyrs and nymphs leads inside.
The people of Bellis built this chapel only five years ago. The main altar portrays a life-sized statue of the love goddess, Shelyn, with a songbird perched upon her outstretched hand.
In the chapel's adjoining chamber, a solarium filters sunlight through an expensive stained-glass ceiling imported from Dementlieu. Currently, the room also has a collection point for wedding gifts intended for Elyin and Kailah. Goods ranging from exotic pottery to handcrafted leather goods and decorative blankets lie among the colorfully wrapped packages.
Here the heroes meet Viviana. She is Falkovnian, branded with the sigil of the hawk. The heroes see the villagers treat her with mixed emotions. While they clearly accept her as a priestess of the love goddess, the gentlest of Sylvanus' servants, they distrust her on a personal level due to the constant reminder of her heritage.
Viviana greets the heroes with her songbird companion on her shoulder. When they ask, she proves willing to tell her story, perhaps relieved to find sincere interest in the newcomers. She explains that she arrived in Elderwood five years ago, seeking shelter. The people of the village, guided by Beles, took her in and gave her a home. In return, she tends the new shrine, and officiates many emotional ceremonies.
When the heroes ask about the solarium and its incredible glass ceiling, Viviana explains that it is the work of Leontine the glassworker. It was reinforced by magic and brought here, all funded by Beles.
Viviana herself is a stoneworker. She has an active hand in completing the shrine. She built the rose garden and all of the sculptures within it.
As Alliama and Carrie learned, Beles is on "one of his sojourns."
The heroes offer their assistance in anything where they can be of help. Viviana tells the heroes to go an enjoy themselves.
The two groups meet where the shrine and garden open. They share their findings.
Viviana arrived about five years ago, they realize, which is when the last elves disappeared, according to Bosch and Caden.
They also hold a brief discussion of Beles leaving on his sojourns.
The heroes separate again, this time into more and smaller groups, each going to the part of the festivities that most interests them. Soon, the wedding will begin.
Dechan goes to the feast tent and box social. Here, he has learned, there will be a cake bidding with the bridesmaids.
Under the canopy of this pitched tent, food and drink are served for the wedding celebration. Several volunteers man cookfires behind the tent, frying fish and roasting racks of pork ribs. Anyone can eat for free, but the canopy's shade offers little sitting room. Instead, revelers enjoy their meals outdoors, either while walking or on the benches facing the fountain.
Dechan observes a special auction called a box social. Kailah's bridesmaids each prepared desserts and placed them in decorative boxes for attendees to bid upon. They hope to raise enough money to provide a dowry for Kailah. Winning bidders receive their chosen dessert and also get to enjoy it in the company of the lovely bridesmaid who made it. This time-honored tradition helps pair young ladies of marrying age with potential suitors in a supervised setting.
The prettiest bridesmaids—and those known as exceptional cooks—draw the highest bids. Most boxes contain a variety of fruit pies and honeyed cakes, with starting bids of up to four silver crowns.
Pavlina arrives to officiate.
Aenelle Hafesh has baked a surprise cake. Bosch, Caden's friend from the rose garden, wins the honor of this cake for two silver crowns. The two walk off, Aenelle's arm looped through Bosch's own.
Next, Aloyse Ashton, who baked strawberry pie. Galadon, one of Elyin's crypt ranger friends from the Foresthawks, wins the right to the pie and Aloyse's company for five silver crowns. The two walk off towards the creek, arm in arm.
The third bridesmade is the gnome Lumi Reasonknot. She has made a chocolate pie. Bidding begins, and immediately the tone in the feast tent changes.
The white-skinned gnome appears from the crowd to bid on Lumi's box. Lumi appears quite worried, and the villagers around Dechan shake their heads in disapproval. The gnome is bidding a lot of money, in gold, though, and no villager can keep up. Onlookers encourage someone, anyone to bid just to save her, and Dechan obliges. But the gnome drives the price for to a total of twenty-six gold crowns.
Lumi is grateul for Dechan's rescue. They walk together towards the rose garden, where they talk about the gnome, Tenzekil, and why he is so embittered.
Two years ago, Tenzekil Braybittle, an obsessive gnome beekeeper, fell on hard times. He lost the annual honey-harvesting competition to newly retired crypt ranger Elyin Ursage, though Tenzekil had won the past six challenges. Crushed by the outcome, the gnome fell into a deep depression.
Tenzekil released his bees and wandered into the Forest of Shadows. After a time, many villagers assumed he had died there, a victim of his madness. But just a couple weeks ago, Tenzekil returned to Elderwood. His skin had been bleached white by his experience in the forest. He was bitter, and he could not be reasoned with.
Dechan presses Lumi gently for more information. He learns that Tenzekil lives east of town, but nobody knows if the gnome actually returned to his home when he returned from the forest. He is unwashed, and his clothes are little more than rags.
Bea, Alliama, and Carrie go to the dancing area. Within the shade of several massive oak trees, musicians perform a variety of quickstep tunes. Several partygoers have already joined the dance, whirling beneath colored streamers and lanterns hung between the trees.
The ladies meet Parmis Salsby, a halfling bard who also traveled with Elyin and the Foresthawks. As a lifelong friend of Elyin, he volunteered for the job but now finds himself a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of guests.
When the heroes join the festivities, though, Parmis sheds his misgivings and delights the crowd.
Sebastien eavesdrops on the mayor, his wife, and a local noble, all of whom are talking with a local ploughman.
The ploughman is concerned about strange mists rising in the forest. He describes it as a warm, wet mist.
The mayor and the noble try to placate the ploughman, saying that Beles might be able to help when he comes home. Sebastien is able to discern that the ploughman does not trust Viviana, likely due to her heritage. He would rather risk whatever is causing the mists than go to her for help.
A sudden swell of music announces the bride and groom's approach. Kailah and Elyin emerge from the chapel of Shelyn with the priestess Viviana by their side. Bridesmaids and musicians follow behind.
Guests immediately gather in the fountain at the center of the grove. Once the procession reaches the fountain, Viviana announces a song about unexpected love from Shelyn's Melodies of Inner Beauty. She nods briefly to the musicians for accompaniment and starts to sing.
At this point several of the heroes notice a couple bees buzzing around Viviana as she sings. They also hear a hum from the forest.
In mid-song, Viviana suddenly stops and gasps in pain, swatting a bee on her forearm. A low, booming buzz erupts from the treeline behind her as thousands more bees rise into the air. The roiling mass of insects heads straight into the gathered crowd, eliciting screams of terror.
As soon as the bees swarm the crowd, a general panic ensues as wedding guests scramble to get away. The stone benches create challenges, and some danger for the guests, many tripping in their haste to escape.
The heroes take action at once, attempting to guide the crowd towards the stone chapel and the cold waters of the creek.
With spells, prayers, and natural flames, the heroes drive off the swarms with only a handful of villagers sustaining injuries. Those are taken inside the chapel, where Viviana and the Foresthawks tend to them.
Alliama and Dechan, though, have managed to spot the likely culprit for the attack. Tenzekil did not abandon his bees. He used some unholy power to enhance them. And now he stands behind the chapel and next to the rose garden with three more gnomes, preparing another attack on the villagers.
Tenzekil's allies are not normal gnomes, though. These filthy, unkempt gnomes are covered with bark-like skin and wrapped in tangled, thorny vines. Their faces are wizened and cruel, and yellow eyes peer out from beneath their prickly brows.
Tenzekil speaks, his voice augmented so every villager hears him. "Fools! You shall rue the day you shunned my pallid condition and laughed at my losses! Know your doom has come! When Queen Rhoswen arrives, all will perish—you will choke upon her mist, die by her thorns, and fall before her armies! May you forever suffer the curses of the Fellnight fey! Tenzekil shall have his revenge on you all!"
The heroes press their offensive. Tenzekil's allies prove formidable. They are able to grow to giant size, and they call upon druidical magic to entangle their foes. They even prove capable of plucking vines from their bodies and hurling them as darts. But the heroes fell each of the three creatures, in the process driving away Tenzekil. For the moment, Elderwood is saved, but no one has forgotten what he said, or his mention of a Fellnight Queen.
The carnage of the assault leaves the townsfolk in confused shock, with many nursing bee stings and painfully removing thorns. Soon, however, a new threat develops.
"Look!" a wedding guest exclaims, pointing toward town. From the forest an unnatural mist seeps forth, slowly enveloping Elderwood and the grove within an eerie, silent wall, cloaking the stunned crowd and obscuring everything beyond twenty feet.
Representatives of the town council, including Elyin Ursage, hurriedly confer with one another and soon approach the heroes. Elyin speaks on the council's behalf to request their aid.
"Thank the gods you were here to help us. Tenzekil Braybittle has always had an unpredictable nature about him, but none of us saw this coming. The council has asked for your help investigating this mist and the threats he made. The people are frightened, and I fear for their safety. Will you help us stop whatever he's planned?"
Elyin and the Foresthawks intend to stay in Elderwood and protect the people from the forces of the Fellnight Queen that Tenzekil mentioned. If the heroes can find the source of the problem and stem it, though, Elderwood would fare much better.
Regarding a direction, Elyin can only offer that Beles the druid has a cabin somewhere in the Forest of Shadows. Nobody knows exactly where it is, even Viviana, but Elyin can point them in the rough direction.
Alliama is already busy tracking. She gets a description of the druid's shoes, his appearance, his size. Big will get his scent. Druids cannot be tracked, normally, but the heroes learn that a silver wolf companion joins Beles when he leaves town. That may be the break they need.
Further, in terms of the druid's power, Viviana informs Alliama that Beles is an Initiate of the Ninth Circle. While this leads Dechan to believe the druid is extremely powerful, Alliama understands that he is merely a formidable champion of Nature, a worthy ally to find, nonetheless.
One last piece of information that Viviana and Elyin can provide is that there is a wandering treant in the Forest of Shadows. The creature's name is Vinroot. He is unpredictable at best, but if creatures threaten the forest, then he may also be an ally.
Before setting off into the FOrest of Shadows, the heroes go to Beles' house. They find nothing of value or interest aside from sculpted stone bowls, a straw pallet, and so forth.
Dechan prays for shelter from Delios. He prays for help finding Beles and Vinroot.
The heroes travel west. Between the cold, the battle, and their brief rest after dreaming of the frozen plateau, they find themselves weary as the sun dips towards the tree line. Alliama finds an ideal camp site.
Shortly after the heroes make camp for the night, a wounded dryad stumbles from a giant oak and falls exhausted into their midst. The slender, furtive figure separates from one of the trees at the edge of camp. It takes only a couple of steps and then collapses to the ground with a gasp of pain. "Please... you must help us!"
"They came from the shadows... inside the mist! My sisters are dying! They're burning our trees! We have nowhere else to turn! You must help!"
The heroes have only a few momen to calm the sobbing dryad and question her about her ordeal. "I am Breena," she tells them when they ask her identity. "A dryad born of the Second World."
The heroes ask where Breena lives. She replies, "Our grove lies in a clearing of paueliel trees just south of here. Follow the gully like a trail and it will take you there. Hurry!"
They begin to ask about Beles, but then a sudden horror clouds her face as somewhere deep in the forest Rhoswen's minions finally destroy her tree and she dies in front of the heroes. No amount of healing can save her, as the dryad's life remains inextricably tied to her tree.
Knowing that there are others in danger, the heroes leave their excellent campsite. They rush into the forest, their own growing fatigue be damned.
A gully leads through this part of the forest, rising into a small clearing of silver-barked paueliel trees, many of which lie fallen and hewn into large piles. A bonfire bathes the fog hovering at the forest's edge with an orange glow, its flames burning away some of the mist, and replacing it with the heavy tang of woodsmoke instead.
A woman's screams punctuate the muted laughter of small figures capering about the fire. An elf-like female and a badly wounded unicorn lie bound upon the ground near a stack of man-sized, hand-cut logs that have been crudely carved into humanoid forms.
The heroes find that four of the thorny, gnome-like creatures remain. They strike with surprise and destroy the creatures, and then they free and heal the one remaining dryad and the unicorn that had tried and failed to save her.
Fira, the dryad, rewards the heroes with a magical flower that can reveal Beles' home. "Use this when you reach the fey-mound in the hills," she says, "and it will briefly allow you to see past the glamer and reach him."
The two mystical creatures vanish into the forest, thanking the heroes and promising to someday repay their heroism. The heroes look at the flower and consider the direction Fira gave them to the fey mounds.
They are weary but they feel they cannot rest. They set off into the late evening, intent on finding Beles.
The heroes get turned about in the Forest of Shadows, but this error proves fortuitous, because it leads them to meet Vinroot, the drunken treant.
Massive footsteps shake the forest floor, and then a loud thud rattles the nearby trees. One of them suddenly crashes to the ground in a cloud of dust and debris. With a groan, it rolls over and starts to right itself. Two large, bleary eyes blink open.
"More visssh... vish-uh... visitors ta the forest?" it slurs in a deeply drunken, booming voice. Then, its eyes narrow in anger. "Why, I'll drive yuh right inta the earth for what yuh done!"
It stands upright and takes an errant, off-balance swing with a giant, gnarled fist, shattering a nearby treetop in a spray of bark and twigs. "Yuh won't be foolin' me again! Now stand still!"
The heroes manage to calm the treant. When he begins to converse, he seems willing to help them, but his advice carries them in a circle: "That druid communes with plenty o' forest folk. He'd likely lend a hand. Findin' him's tricky, though. He made his home near a site o' powerful sorcery. The dryads could prob'ly tell yuh where it be."
However, when the heroes mention the fey mounds, Vinroot becomes excited. He can help with this. If the heroes can pierce the glamour, then he can get them to the mounds.
The heroes arrive with Vinroot's help in the middle of the night.
Moonlight filters into this clearing to illuminate a perfectly round hill dotted with fairy-cap mushrooms. Nearby, a small creek slowly trickles through a pond buffered by outcroppings of large black rock. The air hangs still, and even the sounds of forest animals seem absent.
A powerful glamour protects this part of the forest, emanating from three rune-inscribed monoliths erected upon an ancient fey-mound connected to the Feywild. The glamer hides the presence of these stones as well as the home of Beles.
Fira's flower reveals all that was hidden.
As the heroes make their way to the lodge, though, they pass by an animal pit. A layer of pine boughs woven through a wooden frame has been pushed aside to reveal a deep hole in the ground. At the bottom of the pit lies the emaciated form of a silver wolf.
Inside the cabin, the heroes find Beles. The old druid pretends to be hard of hearing, but the heroes eventually penetrate this ruse. Eventually, they find that Beles has been possessed by some sort of electrical, light creature.
They drive off the creature, freeing Beles from the fey influence. Though the druid is grieving, for he knows what he was forced to do to his dear animal companion, he has discipline enough to aid the heroes with information.
In an age long before the rise of man, a young fey-queen named Rhoswen sought to expand her power by blending shadow magic with fey sorcery, her efforts leading her to a gloom-shrouded valley with trees as tall as mountains.
Rhoswen named this the Fellnight Realm and made it her lair, twisting every living creature with her shadow-sorcery. In disgust, other beings of the Feywild severed her lands from their own, trapping her in her own demiplane where she has languished ever since, seething at the insult
In addition to the legend of the Fellnight Queen, Beles learned something else during his time being tormented by the will o'wisp. He learned that the strange mist originates from several stones within the upper pool at a waterfall known as Dead Man's Drop.
Beles then asks to be left alone so he may mourn his animal companion's death.
The heroes know that Dead Man's Drop is far off, but they still feel that they cannot stop. The will o'wisp escaped. They cannot risk that Rhoswen will crush Elderwood--and the heroes themselves--if they take time to rest.
Vinroot leads the way. The forest parts before them, clearing a straight path to the north, making an easy road out of otherwise impenetrable forest.
Early evening, on the verge of exhaustion, the heroes hear the falls of Dead Man's Drop in the distance.