Session 15: To Vasselheim! (Rinn 7: Into the Woods)

30-31 Brussendar (Conthen/Thursday-Folsen/Friday) 845 PD

Recapping and summing up:

Local Vic (Ivan’s daughter) says she’ll watch over things at the TD Embassy while they’re gone. (Odds are she’s sleeping next to the cherry tree in the courtyard garden to try to convince it to let them send messages through it via Teleport through Plants.) 

During one of their zoom meetings, they find that Keyleth has tried to scry on a few places she knew in OV, the old ST building, where they fought the Raksaka demon, and the Birth Heart Tree- and all of those failed. Either all those places were destroyed, or OV is as messed up as NV. However, the story that VM knows about Vecna, the trammels (the RQ one broke, so only 3 were used), and the sword of Kas lines up with what Stubby remembers. (RE: Kas- he was a follower of Vecna that betrayed him at the end, and Keyleth yeeted his sword into another dimension. Not a champion of the RQ as Gleason was remembering.)

Plus, when they tell local Vic about the time discrepancy, she remembers going on a tour of the RQ in OV (years ago), and what she remembers lines up with what the group does- so it seems like things are wrong, time-line-wise, with the RQ temple, and not the group.

(Gleason has asked if he can send a letter to VM through the tree, when they have that working.)

Up early to head out…

Bright and early the next day, the trio head out, going a different direction than Rinn’s gone before- out through Copper Wall, heading north-west by west. They don’t see a lot of people but do encounter some new guard trainees on the road, being drilled by Newt Boatman. A look back to NV from a hill shows how small the new city really is, especially compared to the stories they’ve heard about OV. The road meanders a bit, but it’s not wise to cut through the empty fields here- if it isn’t safe for farming, it’s probably not safe to walk through them. The road gets older as they continue on, and changes to an older material – one that can’t be made anymore, but is still holding up really well. (Stubby takes the ‘can’t be made anymore’ as a challenge for later.)

(Soon they reach a point that is the furthest Rinn’s gone from NV.) The river loops back and forth, the road crosses it a few times. They pass a few side roads, then eventually come to a larger crossroads. Continuing West is to Fort Victor. South is the town of Osgow. Back east is NV. To the north… OV. Pinned below that sign is a handwritten one, ‘This Way Lies Madness’. Though that road to the north (the one they take), is more of that older material, and the road is wide, and signs that it used to be well travelled as it slopes gently upwards. OV was called the Cradle of Civilization. It is history, being on this road.

They can see a forest up ahead that the road will cut through. The Vesper Timberlands, known for odd things happening there. It’s a few hours away, and there are plenty of safe places to rest and get water along the way. (Wells, seasonal streams, etc. Otel made sure Rinn could read the map.) Once they reach the woods, it will still be a couple more hours of traveling before they stop for the night. Along the road (to the side), they can see plenty of wildlife and signs of wildlife- normal expected things, and things that have moved in once people moved away. There’s enough wildlife that there is the feeling of being watched, and there’s no longer any sounds of civilization – it’s all nature. 

Right before the edge of the woods, there’s a small shrine. It’s an archway, with a slender, hooded figure (that overall is surprisingly phallic). It looks a lot like the one pamphlet that Tam and Stubby found in Emer’s lair in Draconia, so they pull it out- and yep, they are able to identify the shrine as belonging to the Traveler. The one offering still there is a very withered orange, so Stubby and Tam both leave an offering.

They head into the woods. (Snakes)

Something is watching them- and Stubby and Tam are alerted ahead of time, to see two sets of slitted eyes a foot and a half off the ground (into the woods, past the cleared area next to the road), on either side, and a hissing noise. Two giant pythons are preparing an ambush. (Rinn, no clue. “Why are they bothering leaving things at this shrine?”) Thus warned, Stubby and Tam both get a round before initiative! Stubby sets out Aegea, which works on shielding the three of them, yells out a warning, and runs towards snake 1. Tam shoots at snake 2, but misses.

Initiative! (Rinn, Tam, Stubby, Snakes.)

Rinn shoots (crossbow) at the one Stubby is running towards, hits it, but only seems to make it angrier- and then he tosses a dagger at it as well for another hit. Tam shoots at the one near her, misses, and calls out “Do you think this is the time for magic, or should it be saved?” – Which she meant as “Is it worth my using all my spells right now or should I assume there’s going to be more problems before we get a full rest in?” Whereas Rinn heard it as “Rinn, you better get in here with everything you’ve got…”

Stubby, still running towards snake 2, yells “Thanks, Rinn!” and manages to get close enough to grab the crossbow bolt still sticking out of that snake and cast Immovable Object on it. That works wonderfully, as the snake takes more damage thrashing around trying to get itself off, and can’t attack Stubby as she moves away. It does manage to get itself off, but hurt itself more in the process.

The other snake (2) moves closer to Tam, and lunges- and gets a bite in, but thankfully Aegea’s shielding on her handles most of the damage. 

Rinn did see that snake 1 got free, so he yells at Stubby to watch out, and then, taking Tam’s mis-understood advice, casts Witch Bolt, blasting snake 2 that went after Tam. Not for too much damage, but that gives Tam the opportunity to go Primal Salvage and absolutely NAILS that snake for damage. Then, still covered with a bit of snake blood, cheers Stubby on (Inspiration).

Stubby heads back to snake 1, grabs out the Immoveable crossbow bolt, loads it into the crossbow on her gauntlet, and shoots snake 1, and the enchantment is still on the bolt, so the snake is pinned again! After that, she triggers Aegea again, keeping the shielding going.

Snake 1 keeps thrashing, but can’t get free. Snake 2, cracking with the witch bolt energy, goes after Tam again, but the Aegea shielding keeps doing it’s job to keep the damage down.

Rinn keeps concentrating on the witch bolt, dealing more damage to snake 2 this time. Tam tries shooting it again, and misses. Stubby shoots snake 1 with a regular crossbow bolt, hits it, and remembers she has some other help on hand, and directs Sentri to attack while Stubby triggers Aegea again. Sentri hits the snake with a sonic cry (Caw Caw mf-er!). Snake 1 still can’t get free of the Immoveable Crossbow Bolt, thrashing and spraying blood (all over Stubby). Snake 2 decides to go after Rinn, giving Tam an opportunity as it goes by, though she’s too startled to get a good shot in. It lunges after Rinn, trying to wrap itself around him- thankfully he manages to get free without too much damage (also thanks to the Aegea shielding), and also manages to keep his concentration on the Witch Bolt- still blasting the snake while he starts drifting up into the air. (Tempestuous Magic). Tam flanks the snake, going savage on it again. 

Stubby decides it’s high time to start ending this fight, and splashes snake 1 with acid, melting the snake as she yanks the Immoveable Crossbow Bolt from it, and the snake, half it’s head melted away, finally falls to the ground dead. She triggers Aegea again (that shielding is proving its worth!), and directs Sentri to attack Snake 2 with it’s sonic caw. (Stubby also hisses at snake 2 in Draconic, “run!”, intimidating it enough so it loses its turn!)

They’re all getting really tired of snakes. Rinn keeps blasting (max damage!), Tam primal strikes it again, and Stubby shoots it- for a perfect headshot and finally snake 2 drops down. Rinn drifts down to the ground, and while they’re all catching their breath, they seem to hear a male voice say ‘Well, well, well,” with a feeling of approval and accomplishment as if someone is pleased with their actions. (Tam looks back to the shrine, but sees nothing out of the ordinary.)

(Rinn comments to Stubby “I told you my magic wasn’t quiet. Or subtle.” And she motions to her blood-splattered self “Does this look subtle to you?”)

They get cleaned up, get daggers and bolts back, stuff the bodies of the two snakes into the bag of holding!), and head along their route. (Stubby gives Rinn the Immoveable Crossbow Bolt to use, while the enchantment is still good for a little while.)

They keep traveling into the woods, and eventually the grass, trees, plants, and even the ground begins to change color. This isn’t the normal “high elevation” or “changing seasons” changing of colors. Even the evergreen trees are this color, a sickly orangy-red. (Babyshit orange.) This is the boundary of the magical taint from OV- and at this point they spot an old camping site right off the road. Apparently other people thought it was a good point to stop for the night, so they decided to as well. (It’s a good campsite, with a clear stream nearby.)

They start to set up camp- and realize that Stubby is the only one with any experience at camping! There’s a quick how-to on setting up a tent, how to build a fire, and then how to butcher a snake. (Rinn goes off to gather firewood at that point.) Soon, a snake soup is bubbling over the fire, and the trio talk for a while. (IC Interlude!)

Then the rest of the evening. They take turns keeping watch (Stubby first, so she can renew the Alarm spell set around the perimeter at the end of hers so it last longer), then Tam, then Rinn. Sentri joins in, not needing to sleep. Overall it’s pretty uneventful, though Tam spots a couple of elk that wander by to go to the stream to get water.

However, near the end of Rinn’s watch, as light is starting to come up in the east, he looks at the road to OV, and sees a bolt of lightning (though no thunder) hit up to the northwest (OV), and hears a voice he heard in a dream over a week ago. “Come”. It seems encouraging. (Sentri seems to have not seen or heard this.) He has some time to process this- but does he tell them? (Especially with what Saphy said about any other dreams involving the gods.) 

The Next Day

The other two get up, … and they head back out. The road is still good, the incline is gentle. It would be a pretty trip except for everything being that odd color. (Stubby occasionally collects a soil sample, building up a gradient of taint in a test tube.)

While walking, they hear a deep voice say “Excuse me,” and a bear, walking on two legs, crosses the road ahead of them. Tam calls out to him, and he pauses. She asks if he was in NV a few days earlier- and after the direction of the city is pointed out to him, he comments “Oh, bad food.” They wish him well, and the bear keeps going.

(Stubby does recall that when Vex or Keyleth would tell stories about using Talk to Animals to talk to Trinket, this is a lot how they describe Trinket’s voice. Keyleth did mention that other bears didn’t sound like this, that Trinket was more Awakened. This bear is different in the way that Trinket is different.)

Walking walking walking…

Tam sees a cocoon in some bushes, something a bit smaller than she is (which is still pretty big for a cocoon), but it’s been ripped open and whatever was inside has been eaten. She investigates, and it looks like bear claws ripped it open.

Walking, walking, walking…

Soon, they climb over a slight rise, to see OV close by, just a mile away. They can see the city walls (tilted outward!), buildings, and things are STILL on fire. There’s a huge column of smoke and blue flame rising from a place in the middle. Just ahead of them near the main road are the Great Gates… yes, blasted nearly a mile away from the walls. They had heard about these gates, they were carved, painted. Fancy works of art. One of them is in pieces, as if it took a direct hit and folded as it was punched/pushed away. The other is pinned to the earth by a huge hunk of rock. Considering all the advice they heard about camping OUTSIDE the city and then go in the next day, they decide to stop by the gates for the night.

Other people have camped at that location as well, (though not as often as the previous campsite, not a lot of people come THIS far.) There are piles of rocks and stones here, with names written on them- people missing, presumed dead. Stubby finds what seems to be Victor’s rock, with his name and a phrase on it, half faded. (“Learn from my mistakes”.) She makes him a new one. The sun starts to set, and the blue flame light is creepy. (Laminar Flow- the column of flame and smoke doesn’t seem to move.)

They set up camp, and take turns on watch through the night, with Sentri helping. Nothing happens, and nothing is noticed. They are pretty oblivious, but thankfully nothing happens.

Rinn’s on the last watch, and when the sun is up, the others get up, breakfast is made, they take down camp, and head that last mile to OV. 

The last 500 feet, they have a clear view. They can see into the city, and with a growing sense of foreboding, the road gets rougher- there are gouges and crevasses ripped through the ground. They make their way there, and can finally look at the carnage. They’ve seen the paintings of OV, and heard about it- glittering, gleaming, the City That Stood Against Time. Instead, while there are still some roads, some houses and buildings still standing, but most of the land is torn. Blocks and neighborhoods are gone with still smoking craters where they had been. There are still bodies everywhere. Some piled up as the survivors tried to do what they could, but others left where they dropped. All in various stages of decomposition, as the magic is messing even that up. Crevasses, nearly canyons, lead up to the Platinum Dragon Temple. Outcroppings of rocks that look like they erupted up through the ground, piercing and tearing through buildings. There are ruins where the Raven Queen temple was, but the temple itself does not stand.

Stubby knows the story from Pike where the temple of the Everlight had been discovered. It’s also been ripped asunder. In fact, it looks like all the temples were targets. It began at the temple of the Platinum Dragon, (throwing all those artifacts god knows where), at the center of that city. The pyre of blue flame keeps going up into the sky, churning and throwing energy upward.

End Scene! (No cliffhangers here, not at all. Be sure to watch us next season…)

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