Where we play with pixies, anger some goats, meet Will of the Fey, and disguise ourselves as unicorns, ’cause it’s cool.
When last we left our heroes, we finally travelled to the next destination on our whirlwind tour of the Fey, the Forest Land of Thither. We travelled to the land via hot air balloon, but the winds were not in our favors. We were blown off course from where we wanted to go and instead landed in the middle of nowhere, far away from everything except this lonely cave. Inside we met a magical weaver called Nib, who spins magical items for anyone who wants one. How serendipitous. I got a bag of holding which is appropriate for the party packrat.
Bidding farewell to our travelling companions, we head north looking for a witch in the woods. We didn’t bring breadcrumbs and got lost immediately. But like everything else in the Fey, you can’t really be lost, if you don’t care where you’re going. During our arboreal trek, we discovered a bunch of Wanted posters calling for the capture of a cunning criminal called Will of the Fey. He’s a 12-year-old boy and the local hag Skabatha must really want him bad, because these posters all offer some enticing and rather cryptically worded rewards.
As we travelled northward (we think) we encountered some adorable living mushrooms, called the Campestri. We adopted several of them and made them into pets. Mine is called Shitake and he sits on my left shoulder, ready to jump under my armor at the first sign of trouble. He tickles.
We also met a rather vengeful dryad who really wants Skabatha to suffer but is rather confused about how to do it. Speaking of Skabatha, we are on a vague mission to rid this land of her and her sisters. More importantly we are on a specific, time-sensitive, and cursed mission to steal a painting from Skabatha’s house for her sister, Bavlorna. Thanks Daithi!
Without coercion or provaction, our dim-witted barbarian made a deal to steal this painting in seven days, or else. As a reward, she will answer a few questions relating to another companion’s, Shammer, backstory. And this caused another dilemma within our group. Shammer does not want this mission to succeed, and wants to see it fail. Why? By the player’s logic, following the rules of the Feywild, if Daithi’s mission succeeds, then Shammer will owe Daithi a favor, and Shammer refuses to owe any Fey creature (which Daithi is) anything. So, she is actively trying to thwart our ability to complete it. Actively is a strong word, it’s more like passive-aggressively trying to thwart us. But we’ll get to that.
Continuing our wanderings in the woods, we come across an unusual giant gnarled oak tree. There sure are a lot of peculiar trees in this forest. This one has a bunch of tiny houses built amongst the branches. At the foot of the tree, there are three angry goats wearing three angry red hats, standing over three angry sickles, bleating angrily up at the tree. Our resourceful ranger casts Speak with Animals and he can now hear the goats yelling, “Get down here and fight us and stop casting magic!” Then we hear several tiny little voices call out from the tiny houses in the enormous tree, “They’re not goats. They wear red hats and use those scary metal spin-y things (the sickles). But don’t kill them!”
Ooh, ooh, I know what they are! But I keep my mouth shut and let the others play. The kenku ranger continues with his Doctor Doolittle routine, but he fails his animal handling check and gets kicked by one of the goats as a reward. Next, he tries to lead them away with one of the potatoes from his magic bag, but rolls a “1” on his persuasion check and gets head-butted by another goat. Daithi gets bored with the petting zoo. He rages, misty steps behind the goats (’cause he can do that), and screams real loud. In his contested Intimidation check, Daithi rolls with advantage and bardic inspiration since he is the only one whose curse was lifted (see Session 8). The result is 26 to 3 and the terrified goats run away, bleated out threats to return and stomp everybody.
We find out from the thankful fairies that those things were polymorphed Redcaps (I knew it!) who work for Granny Nightshade and spend most of their time throwing rocks at the fairies’ tree. The redcaps are grown in Granny’s Garden and the only way to stop them (and save this gnarly tree, which is slowly dying) is to drive the hag from the land. Yeah, yeah, we’re working on it, okay! The fairies don’t have anything useful for us, but it is nice to finally have a group that is nice to us, and not trying to rob us, confuse us, or trick us. And, of course, I picked up 3 lovely rusty sickles to put in my Bag.
After journeying aimlessly for hours (again time and distance are irrelevant and the DM will bring you where you need to be eventually), we hear sounds of children laughing and our first labeled encounter. We come upon a large ramshackle treehouse with swings and rope ladders hanging from the branches. But the tree isn’t a usual tree (naturally); it is a treant named Little Oak. As we approach, the laughter stops and a voice challenges us, “Stand down or face merry hell!” The voice belongs to a grubby faced boy with wild curly hair that matches the Wanted posters we’ve found. This is Will of the Feywild. Hooray! We finally found the story. And I’m mildly curious to see what merry hell looks like.
This should have been a huge dramatic payoff for us players. We are finally meeting the crux of this chapter, Will of the Fey. Sure, the hag is important, but this guy has been built up and anticipated far more than the villain. Is Will good or bad? Should we work with him in his campaign against the hag, or capture him to get in the good graces of the witch and take our chances with some fabulously horrible reward? On top of that, we meet two other important NPCs here, one we need to get to the next land and the other we have been anxiously looking forward to meeting since the very first session. It should have been awesome. But I was completely bored and frustrated by it. Everyone else seemed fine though.
Maybe I was in a bad mood. Maybe I’m frustrated by the duplicity of the very nature of the setting. Maybe I’m sick of everybody trying to be funny (myself included). Maybe I’m tired of having several teammates who barely engage with the story and insist on playing out their personal agenda. Maybe I’m fed up with feeling that I have to manage all these people just to move the story along. Maybe I’m an ass. Maybe all of these things. The fact is I was just checked out today.
Fortunately, several other players kept the story moving while simultaneously ignoring the other players’ (plural) shenanigans. After a brief back and forth about whether we had ever harmed or planned to harm a child, which gave Thane some devious ideas later on, Will agrees to meet with us and slides down the treehouse’s ladder. Daithi decided to take this time to climb up said ladder. They collide in the middle and a big deal is made of the fact that Will is much heavier than expected for a 12-year-old boy, at least 200-300 pounds heavier. What this means we have no idea, but clearly there is more to Will than meets the eye.
This little mystery has vexed me for quite some time. The book wants us to trust this character. He opposes the obviously evil witch, he provides a safe haven from others who are hiding from the hag, and, duh, he is the Peter Pan of this adventure. Clearly, he is a good guy; a chaotic good guy, but good nonetheless. But he is obviously hiding something, and my burning desire to uncover all the secrets of the adventure is killing me. All my roleplaying with this guy (here and in future sessions) is an attempt to catch him in a lie or other slip up. But I learned nothing that confirmed my suspicions.
I am convinced that Will is actually a polymorphed monster and I don’t think that Will even knows his own secret. But I have a way to force the secret out if it is true. My Ancient Ones Paladin Oath give me the Turn the Faithless ability which induces fear in any fey or fiend creatures and reveals the true form of any illusions, shapechanged, or altered character. I want to do it so bad! Yet my gut tells me that exposing this secret would be catastrophic. (This was confirmed months later by the DM, although he would not tell me the actual secret itself). I hate it when D&D does this. Please, Wizards of the Coast, don’t have secrets that should not be uncovered, secret doors that must not be found, and mysteries that cannot be solved. Okay, enough venting. Back to the story.
After our suspicious introduction to Will, we meet the rest of the Getaway Gang (I imagine there was a trademark violation with the term “Lost Boys”). Currently, there are three children, aged 7-10, that Will has already “liberated” from Skabatha’s child labor sweatshops. There’s Bobbi, a male dwarf; Sloane, a red-haired female elf; and a female orc named Zenner. Via our utterly convoluted and chaotic “conversation” filled with cross-talk and numerous ignored meta-game comments, we learn the following: There are more children held captive by the hag; she also has a group of tin soldiers as guards; and she holds prisoners inside a cell in her kitchen.
Next, we meet our next navigator who will lead us into the next land, Yon, just as soon as we complete our next chore to add to our To Do List. This is Squirt, an animated oil can that talks like a Brooklyn mobster and moves by hovering(?), floating(?), hopping(?); I’m not really sure how this thing moves. However, I am sure that I was right when I said that all our guides would be based upon the Wizard of Oz. A scarecrow named Clappperclaw. Check! A Tin Man/Can named Squirt. Check! What’s next? An Androsphinx? A Chimera? A Lionfish? A Stallion? A Medallion? I got a million of them. Oh, by the way, our chore is to get some oil out of the nightmare monsters called Boggles that the hag employs to terrorize the children. Fun.
Then, finally, we meet the one thing we have been eagerly antici – wait for it – pating for the entire adventure. A soft purring announces the presence of the cutest six-legged kitty-cat with two thorn-spiked whips on its back that you’ve ever seen. Yup, this is Star, the baby Displacer Beast that we promised to find for its mother way back in Session 1. Except, she doesn’t want to leave and Will doesn’t want to let her go. Unless… We help Will with a little plan he’s got to free all the kids from Skabatha’s workshop. Well, you’re in luck kid, ’cause that’s on our list of Things To Do.
But first, a side quest. One of the Getaway Gang kids mentioned a magical lake, that’s hidden from all the bad people and has a unicorn at it. At the mention of the word “unicorn”, Faux the taciturn thief perked his head up from constructing his dice towers and was immediately hyper-engaged with the story. I’m being overly dramatic; Andy, Faux’s player and the only other Dad at the table, always knows what’s going on but usually stays quiet until it’s his turn. Now I don’t know what is so important about unicorns to his backstory, but it is and it has been since the beginning, so we’ll let him have this moment. Won’t we, rest of the table?
The only ones who didn’t want to go were Shammer, played by Andy’s own son, and surprisingly, me. I was merely playing a sour-pus dwarf who thinks that unicorns are frivolous and foolish, but as a player I totally wanted to go. But Thane’s Shammer really didn’t want to go. This all played into Shammer’s belief that completing our quest would bind Shammer into an unwanted Feywild pact. At this point, Shammer merely suggested that Durwyn (me) lead the party to the unicorn lake, knowing that my cursed sense of direction would get us hopelessly lost. But it was at this moment that I realized that Thane would be deliberately working against the party and I dreaded to see how far he would push this course of action.
Of course, the group shot down this idea and we were properly led to the proper place. But there’s a catch, there always is. The Wayward Pool is hidden. Even if you walk directly toward it, you will be magically course-corrected around the entire area and never be allowed to find it. Unless… you happen to be a unicorn. Or disguised like one, this magic isn’t particularly savvy. The kids have built a unicorn costume, complete with a wooden horn. But any sort of horn affixed to your head will work, apparently.
The fairies, Faux and Mara, and Pop the kenku will use the costume. Serena casts an illusion, while Herbert uses his flute as a horn substitute. Daithi, who has been wearing a hollowed pumpkin around his head (don’t ask), tears a chunk off the back of it and jams the piece into what would be the gourd’s forehead. Shammer and I stayed outside. But this pouty act of defiance doesn’t last. My Fear of Missing Out got the better of me, so using my mason tools, I carved a stone horn and entered. Shammer cast a spell and did the same.
Passing through the invisible barrier, the main group finds themselves before the most serene, idyllic lake ever imagined, the place is the literal embodiment of peace. The waters of a placid lake gently lap upon the shore and there is a small island about 200 feet away. We’d been told to summon the unicorn using the small brazier on the island. Serena and the fairies fly over while Pop and Herbert stay on dry land. Daithi jumps in the water immediately and begins swimming. Shammer and I arrive as over half the party is either over or in the water.
As Daithi is swimming toward the island, we can see a filmy, green oil wash off of Daithi’s body and be consumed by the lake. Like a toxin being expelled, Daithi can feel the curse of his pact with Endolin being lifted. We are no longer obligated to steal any paintings for that hag. That’s good. But we can also sense that Endolin knows we broke her pact and she is not happy about it. That’s bad. This had the added benefit of freeing Shammer from her presumed obligation to Daithi. She did stop working against the party (that’s good) but Shammer and Daithi still had some PvP later on for old time’s sake (that’s typically not good).
Once the island hoppers got to the far shore, Serena cast fire bolt at the coals in the brazier. A majestic, elegant white horse with an exquisitely delicate horn materialized on the pebbly beach. I found it hilarious that the four who most wanted to meet this unicorn, whose name is Lamorna, were over 200 feet away, while the four of us who didn’t care, were right there on the beach with her. But then I was rather disappointed when this unique NPC, turned out to be just another Info Dump/Quest Giver.
First, Lamorna tells us that this land once belonged to Zybilna (a slightly nicer witch), but the land was stolen by her three evil stepsister hags. We know this. Second, the hags captured this unicorn’s mate, Elidon, stole his horn, and used it to trap Zybilna in her palace. We knew most of this too. And third, the ONLY way to return the land to its original state, is to use the horn to free Zybilna from her step-sisters’ curse. We get it! The hags are bad. Of course, Lamorna doesn’t know where Elidon is kept, where the unicorn’s horn is, how the horn is used, or what Skabatha’s weakness is. Apparently, we need to find a different Info Dump/Quest Giver NPC for all this stuff.
But before Lamorna can possibly tell us something we don’t know; a small shadowy shape jumps out from behind that heretofore unseen boulder on the shore and stabs the unicorn! Instantly, the unicorn disappears. “I didn’t know they could do that,” says the stunned assassin. Dude, you just picked the wrong beach party to crash. We tore into this guy. He didn’t stand a chance. One fatal flaw of having a role-play adventure with very little combat, it that when a fight does occur, every single player goes supernova on whatever it is because we’re gonna get another rest before the next one. One Divine Smite, some dissonant whispers, one Rage, multiple eldritch blasts, and one Assassin’s critical hit later, the diminutive killer lay dead. Maybe we should have interrogated this guy first. I wonder who he was?
Fortunately, Lamorna returns just in the nick of time to say, “His name’s Zarak. He is part of the League of Malevolence, a group of evil adventurers who are also trying to take over this land.” Ooh, this is new. What else do you know about them? “That’s it, just that. Maybe someone else can tell you more.” Okay, fine. Anything else you can tell us? “Uhm, the library on the second floor of the Palace holds Zybilna’s important tomes.” Sure, Library, check. What else? “There’s a Jabberwock that lives in the palace…” Yea we know. Big green lizard, eyes of flame, jaws that bite, claws that snatch. Scary. Is that it? “Yup, that’s it.” Are you sure? “Pretty sure. That’s all I got.” Okay, uhn, thanks. Let’s loot the corpse!
Turns out this dead guy is actually a very short orc with standard assassin gear. Useless munchkin leather armor, two daggers (into the Bag), one garrote (Bag), one potion of invisibility (don’t know who grabbed that but it wasn’t me), and one pendant with a mysterious symbol – a fearsome wyrm with wings (probably the jabberwock). Daithi immediately grabbed it and put it around his neck. “Check it out, now I’m in the League of Malevolence!” “Okay, Daithi takes it off now.” It doesn’t come off. Uh oh.
I almost forgot, Lamorna also mentioned that a resident of Yon can take us to the Palace. Who is this new mystery guide? A dandelion named Amidor. A Dandelion. Ooh, I didn’t think of that one. I wonder if he is cowardly.
Next week, we enact Will’s half-baked rescue plan, but first, an in-between session when half the party doesn’t show up.
As always, an undiscovered secret in D&D , may as well never exist, and Game On!
“All children, except one, grow up” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan