Dear Diary…trouble in the deep forest

Quiet two weeks traveling from Thornward. We reached Orlane yesterday afternoon, and spent the evening in the Slumbering Serpent.

Apparently most of the villagers who were affected by Explicktika have moved on, including Father Abramo. The Golden Grain is under new owners now (Master Olwin says they’ve redone the secret passages to have obvious doors, and allow people to book multiple rooms. He says it’s been popular with children…but nothing can steal too much business away from his special vintage).

Lancell came by this morning when he heard that we were here. Sounds like he’s really enjoying himself, though of course Ezekiel invited him to the Temple complex we’re totally going to build soon. Crime and bandit attacks are almost unheard of hereabouts, and the Temple of Merikka seems to be faithful and flourishing. He mentioned a couple names, but Raven didn’t recognize any of the new clergy.

I didn’t see Jill, though I hear she’s still studying under Master Ramne. Sounds like she prefers theoretical studies to hands-on application. We also hear that Kelsier drops in from time to time, although he usually doesn’t stay long.

Glad to feel like we actually accomplished something! Normal people, quietly living their lives without goblins and lizardlings and such to bother them…that’s what this is all about.


We sent the disciples and Dree on to Hochoch with the mind-cart, while Mikael takes us into the forest. He says there’s a gathering place for his order deeper in the Dim Forest, and there’s no way we’d get the dragons through there neatly, to say nothing of the cart. I worry a bit about sending them off to a town without us, but I guess they’re all grown and able to take care of themselves. The biggest danger is the city watch freaking out about the dragons.

Meanwhile, we’ll be accompanying Mikael to speak to his superiors. After all this time traveling together, he actually seems nervous…


Well I’m not quite sure what we’re getting into.

It took us a couple days crawling up the ridge of the Dim Forest, following what was more a trail than a path. Finally, we spotted sunlight filtering from a clearing up ahead – and an elf druid appeared to tell us only Mikael could go on.

So we sat against the trees and tried not to let Mikael’s unusual anxiety rub off on us.

I admit, I don’t quite understand the druids making such a big secret of everything. Rangers understand that the more people that want to push back the hordes of Evil, the better.

Maybe it’s a “not many should have that kind of power” thing…although the magic users sure don’t work it that way. And what’s to keep secret anyway? You ask your patron deity politely to let you do X, and if they want to, they do. That makes sense to me.

I suppose that’s why I’m not a druid.


Agnar kept peering between the trees, trying to see a dryad. We told him he didn’t really want to surprise a dryad (I’ve heard they’re shy) but that doesn’t mean he was convinced.

Before too long (much sooner than we expected), Mikael came back. He looked kinda relieved…though not a lot.

He tried to explain it all: the order only allows nine full druids, each responsible to a higher druid, and three of those answering to an even higher druid. I never would’ve pegged the nature-whisperers to be the harshest on bureaucracy. Bottom line, for Mikael to be invested as one of the Nine (and gain responsibility for a Grove that he could use to support Ezekiel’s temple), he has to take the place of one of the previous office-holders.

As it happens, one of the previous Druids hasn’t reported in for several years, and this has worried his commander enough that he tasked Mikael to go find out what happened – and let him bring us as back-up. It sounds serious enough that Mikael wants us to head out right away. The way he described it, we either “deal with” the druid, or deal with whatever has prevented him from answering messages. Oh, and we may or may not run into some other messengers the High Druid has sent over the years who never came back. Huzzah.

(Mikael suggested I leave the invisible sword in my backpack since there are a lot of things in the woods that can charm you. And if I were invisible they’d never find me. Double huzzah.)


Well, I don’t know what to do, now. The woods was always were I ran when Clarence was being a brat, or Tomlin was being domineering, but now it is officially terrifying.

We headed for the area Head Druid Talifen had indicated – north, deeper into the Dim Forest, and over the Great River. Mikael had been worried some other plane might be at work, so Ezekiel had his holy sheep at the ready, fingers twitching at the chance to use it.

Then we started coming across dead bodies. They were old enough even Ezekiel didn’t suggest raising them, but some of them were fresh enough to tell they were druids. Not like Druid druids…but leather and green and bronze sickles kind of druids. I couldn’t quite tell what killed them; too much time had passed.

We resolved to proceed with caution, and promptly ran headfirst into –

As we got further north, we came across vines smothering tree branches above our heads…vines with little yellow flowers, waving back and forth of their own accord (a breeze doesn’t easily reach this far under the canopy). Mikael thought he could identify them if he had a sample to examine, so Raven climbed up there to collect some flowers.

He took a long time – so long that Mikael finally turned into a squirrel to go check on him. After some muffled squeaking and shaking of leaves, he finally dragged Raven back to ground-level (with only a bit of crashing).

After seeing the vine up close, Mikael named it “yellow musk,” and he says it eats out people’s brains. So we should avoid going near it in future.

Raven seems fine, except his eyes look a bit glazed, and he says he thinks we’re over-reacting to the adventure with the vine. Also he asked what Heiron’s name is.

I think we finally learned our lesson about proceeding with caution, and when we came to a sizeable stream full of green, stinky water, we didn’t run and touch it (although Raven offered to). With all the algae and rotting plant matter, it was hard to tell if it was moving at all.

Lydia built a stone bridge across it, and we walked single file down the center of the bridge. Mikael even had us hold hands – I guess in case something grabbed us from the river. Somehow I ended up at the back with the half-orc, but that’s the worst I personally had to deal with.

Once we were across, we found ourselves in what must have once been a village square…but now was heavily overgrown. A well stood a handful of yards away, while a tangle of those yellow flowering vines covered what looked like an inn.

While Ezekiel tossed holy water over his shoulders and the rest of us were filing off the bridge, a crowd of animals burst from the undergrowth at the far end of the clearing, and a human-ish form – more greenery than flesh, I think – staggered out of the nearest doorway.

I snatched up an arrow and let fly at the corpse-looking thing, but Heiron and I had to work together to take it down. As Agnar rushed forward, a huge worm (I guess it wasn’t an ankheg, since it didn’t have legs, but it was horrifyingly big all the same) burst from the ground at his feet and snapped at him (I don’t think it even had teeth, but it was plenty ferocious).

Before our eyes, the animals swelled and stretched, growing twice their normal size. A brightly colored snake – even bigger than Cuddles – zig-zagged to one side as a wolf and a couple boars charged at Mikael. Usin ran forward to help Agnar, and a two-legged black bird snapped at him, nearly taking off his ear. Mikael was waving his arms, scolding the creatures and trying to convince them we should all be friends…but I’m not sure how well that would have worked.

Lydia snapped her fingers, and a wall of fire shot up down the middle of the clearing. Several of the animals fled (the earth vibrating a little, I think, under their abnormally large feet), while the snake shriveled to a crisp on the spot.

I spotted more shambling, human-like forms approaching from the flank, and ordered the weeds at their feet to seize the enemies of Ehlonna. Someone else tried the same trick, though, and creepers snarled around Usin’s ankles, and clawed at Raven and Agnar as they tried to move. I don’t know what deity was responsible. Perhaps, when a person becomes powerful enough, their patron just entrusts them with power because of who they are, not for a specific task… – or perhaps, even when the servant is drifting in his relationship with his Master, he is still allowed to use the power because of what they once had…before his office is finally revoked. Like how Ezekiel used the mace with a ram’s head to finally cast spells, but then when it got stolen, he was still able to cast spells even without it. Except maybe not quite like that.

I’m getting side-tracked. Focus on the fight.

We’ve never fought a druid before. We knew Mikael was scary, but now we could really see it from the other side. Half our party started glowing with faery fire, while a towering tree-creature waded across the battlefield to bellow and swing at Mikael. I think it had arms and legs, but there was no mistaking its essential tree-ness. And then a second one stomped forward to join the fray.

Maybe that’s what made Ezekiel desperate. He darted forward and slammed his mace into the ground. The plant-zombies shuddered and dropped to the ground…the big bird and the worm lashed their heads back and forth and whined…the treants bellowed.

Across the glade, some people in well-worn druid robes appeared – two men and a woman – from around or inside some of the tumble-down buildings. When Ezekiel struck with his mace, they clapped their hands over their ears. I don’t think they got the chance to do much before Lydia swiped her fingers through the air and sent a lightening bolt searing through the dimness of the glade.

Mikael was trying to set one of the treants on fire when abruptly Lydia’s wall of fire evaporated, leaving nothing but blackened weeds and a trail of smoke. Beyond the smoke, a man in smoking robes, with a scruffy grey beard, waved a staff (Raven says the staff had an eyeball at the end, but as I mentioned earlier Raven’s been having some problems lately).

I admit I was a little distracted. Those walking trees are vulnerable to arrows, fortunately – but it takes a pickin’ lot of them to put them down. Agnar and Usin were still battling back and forth with the giant worm. A beetle the size of Belch ran up and spat scalding gas or something over us – but I blinked in time, and kept it out of my eyes, and then Lydia shot the beetle with white fire.

I finished off the second treant and the worm, and caught up with Ezekiel, who tells me he was having a battle of wits with the last druid. By the time I got there, though, Raven and Mikael had just finished him off…and Mikael was acting a little hysterical with his flaming scimitar. I don’t know if the stress of the last few days was getting to him, or if he was over-focused on beating this druid for his position, or if he was just really excited about using his scimitar after finally setting it on fire… Anyway, we won’t be raising that guy.

Lydia torched another infestation of the brain-sucking vine, and the battlefield seemed quiet. Several of the animals ran off, but with their masters dead, I don’t suppose they’ll want to come back and fight us.

There is still the question of what this was all about. Obviously the group of druids wasn’t infected by the yellow flower musk, or they would have been mindless zombies… Ezekiel is all for raising the three under-druids (y’know, the ones we still can) and questioning them. Mikael seems really anxious to raise the girl druid, at least…even though we know he never has good luck with girls. Good luck with them being not-evil, that is. He’s weaving on his feet, covered with blood, so maybe he’s not thinking very clearly right now.

Find the previous entry here.

2 thoughts on “Dear Diary…trouble in the deep forest

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