After seeing the green light go out, Glordir quickly gets away from the elemental as it begins to dissolve. If he happens to see any of the other gear that might be easily and safely grabbed, he will do so.
The ground breaks in, and pulls everyone within the immediate evirons of the elemental creature - if it was one - into what seems to be a seemingly bottomless hole in the earth. Whatever open space is there, down below the living puddle of mud that spasms and vellicates like the soil's living muscle, it is enough to swallow the entire clearing's upper ground.
But you, who dared to enter the clay man's destructive radius, you still escaped unscathed - if only by a gnomish nose's length.
Sveinki, Cailín, James and Serafin, half tumble, half summersault out of the pit as it closes in. Glordir escapes, too, but, if at all, he can only help the others to escape. For him to dig in the mud for the rest of your belongings, there is no time.
The half-elf might well curse, or at least frown, as he sees how many other items that formerly belonged to the party are sucked down into the maelstrom. - But the sand beneath his feet is too loose. If he turned back, or dared to hesitate a moment, Glordir would likely be done for.
Above ground, above the pit, the wall of solid blackness seems to retrocede, as nervous twittering chippering is heard from inside the darkness of the trees. The moon and the stars above you seem to shine in a strange light, more intense than usual.
More clearly than before, you can make out dozens of small bodies, standing around the strange battlefield in a crooked circle, or sitting between the branches of the trees. You even believe to see the flickering of soft red and yellow spots, at least for a couple of split-seconds, before they are hidden again, behind this strange black veil. Fires, you might think. Hearthfires. In tiny huts, build around the roots of the tall trees.
Below you, whatever remained of green heart of the... Golem... Seems to fall into itself, and implodes with a strangely hollow sound. Tiny, emerald pieces of spiderweb seem to rain from the night sky, and where they touch you, you feel strangely strengthended and warmer.
[The party regains all lost HP, and if you've cast spells during the battle, it won't figure into your daily pool.]
As the emerald sparks come down on you, the magic veil around you seems to shiver yet again. Slow, yet strong waves of shock run through the blackness.
"YOU! You, the sacrifices!
You have defied Her-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed! You habe broken sacred law!"
A whole group of high-pitched, angry fey voices calls out to you!
The voices surely try to sound threatening. What they really sound like is stressed out, and perplexed.
"Is that a male Man, actually? Isn't that a female Man? Shouldn't we use that other pronoun?
"Oh, SHUT UP, Jeremy!"
The fey are not mastering the current situation with the aura of villainous cold-bloods that one would expect from such evil little creatures.
A moment longer, the question whether facial hair indicates a male or a female human is discussed. An open vote is had, but, from what ya ou can make out of the tiny voices, a large minority is still sceptical.
Sveinki, indeed finds his dagger, entangled somewhere between the thick underwoods of the forest. He doesn't remember to have thrown it that far, yet, here it is. Maybe the elemental creature's implosion pushed it so far out.
Balboa and Anfortas are still cowering over one another, the one, blind, the other barely half-conscious. Both might well need medical attention, and proper rest.
Anfortas, barely hearable, whispers to Sveinki, as he approaches:
"If SHE is not here, right now, we might have a chance to dissuade the fey from harming us! They are HER prisoners, as much as we are. - But what or who SHE is, I have not found out yet, even... Even when SHE took my eyes..."
Meanwhile, the fey are still not done with James.
"Insolent, UGLY longleg dog! The only thing giving us indigestion will be your friend... Tinchell! Lay down your weapons, or we'll... We'll BAKE him! Yes! That is what we'll absolutely do!"
"You might wish to forgive my friend James," Cailín says. "You see, to him, everyone is little." At this she darts the briefest of glowers his direction, the not-so-distant memories of being held at bay at swordplay lessons with the boy by one of his long, outstretched arms resting against her forehead, the tip of her wooden practice blade whistling harmessly several hand-spans from his midsection.
She kneels, and then sits back on her heels, to get closer to the feylings' eye level, the Staff of Ravens leaning over one shoulder, feathers and blackened knuckle-bones stirring as she settles. "I am very interested in knowing to whom or what it was I was to be sacrificed. Would you tell me, or perhaps I could entertain you with a song or two?"
Cailín smiles, her tone light and cheerful.
Still, the slightest of dips in her tone as she asks her last question rivals the chill of the forests outside the warming radius of the staff that leans against her shoulder.
Sveinki will concentrate on trying to provide the medical attention that Anfortas and Balboa need. Afterwards, he will scan about for other parts of their gear that may have been scattered in the area by the elemental creature's implosion and something for Balboa to use as a crutch when he is able to move.
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
"Insolent ... ugly ... long legs? I'm sorry, are you trying to insult me, or just describe me? If you really want to learn how to insult someone properly, you should take lessons from my friend Cailín here. I do so hope you'll want to be her friend too. You really don't want to see what she does to the people she doesn't like."
Having listened to their conversation for a while, James adds, "By the way Jeremy ... which one of you is Jeremey? Anyway, I am a male, and she" he points at Cailín, "is a female. Does that help you decide what to call us?"
What just a few moments ago seemed like yet another battle to the death seems to turn into a rather surreal stalemate.
The black magic curtain around you keeps in place, yet, behind it, you can hear the Two Moon Fey discussing, rather loudly, in a language that Glordir and Cailín will find to vaguely resemble the sort of spoken Ancient Elven that they know, but not be able to fully understand.
But the feys' angry discourse - they're holding up another vote about whether James said the truth, or whether they should, quote, remove Wenchell from the frying pan, unquote, to clarify once and for all, whether human women, like Dwarven ones, do, in fact, sport beards. - But this is another story, and listening to fey chatter for too long, as you know, is said to drive even very wise men mad.
The feys' apparent lack of oversight gives you a chance, though, to regain most of your composure after the nightmarish experience in the pit:
While most of your gear is gone, and all remaining metal items, except for the weapons you could literally wrestle away from the golem, were sucked into the pit, all but Serafin have a weapon.
Also, with Sveinki's aid, Anfortas recomposes himself to a point when he will be able to - at least - follow simple orders. Balboa is still half-unconscious, though: Neither he nor Anfortas will be able to walk - or run - by themselves. So, if things get bad again, you will have to fight again. Or leave them.
Meanwhile, the tiny voices get irritating:
"Send the slayer! Yes! Send him!"
"Send the elephant man!"
"The metallic shine of his trunk will please Her-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed!"
"That was not how I meant it, by Ningauble!"
"There he comes! Make way, make way! The elephant man! The Grey Giant!"
The darkness parts...
And from it emerges a particularly tall feyling. Probably as tall as a young dwarf.
You can see his pointy ears, but his face is hidden by a grotesque wooden mask, with long wooden teeth, and some sort of a dead snake for a nose.
He carries two long swords, both about as long as himself. And old. And precious, with the runes of fallen kings etched onto them. Holy swords, from the days of yore...
You can see, how, as he walks towards you, the flesh on 'The Elephant Man's' small hands is burnt, a bit more, and more, with every step.
That's because the fey cannot wield cold iron,Glordir might think.
The bizarre creature stops in front of James and Sveinki, whom it might have identified as the group's more war-like members.
It's breathing heavily, and it's voice is rhaspy, from the terrible pain it must suffer. Now that it is near, you can see that under its tunic made of green leaves, it wears a chainmail suit, also, of a metal, and of a quality that you have rarely ever seen. Under it, the little fey's flesh is burning away.
Then, the small warrior growls, for a long moment, like a dying dog would howl.
And, then, it simply says:
"You owe Her-Who-Reigns a death. Either you, or me. One of us dies.
Serafin is very suspicious of this "Elephant Man". Where did he get such fine swords? Is he imitating someone else with his crude costume? Then there is his loyalty and dedication to his queen. Silly, he thinks, but brave and admirable somehow. Perhaps the type of thing he'd like to write about.
He attacks without warning. Except, given how crazy everything has been up to now, James was already warned. Cailín has already found out how annoying it can be when your opponent has much longer arms than you, and he will use that to his advantage as he engages the 'elephant man'.
"I don't know who you are trying to be with this costume little man, but my ancestors met the real elephant man, and you are nothing but a small shadow of him."
James will try to keep at arms length and use his sword to engage the swords of this crazy fey. His words are an attempt to make him angry - angry foes make mistakes.
The wounded, pained, and half-burned feyling staggers forward, but Sveinki's and Serafin's joint attack is enough to make him trip, and to completely disarm him... And to end his life, if you so desire.
James steps in, as always acting as Cailín's protector. But he really has nothing more to do, as the Elephant Man falls onto the ground, before him. The long, ancestral swords fall to his side, forgotten.
Both the simplicity of your defense, as well as James' words seem to profoundly impress the fey, who are still standing as a bewilderingly quiet audience around you.
The strange, magic curtain goes back, even more, revealing whithered trees, and many small, shadowy creatures sitting on their roots and branches.
The stars in the sky above you are dancing. And the tiny chorus goes:
"If you beat our champion, and if you met the likes of him before, then... Are you as powerful as She is?"
And then comes the phrase that seems to betray them:
Sveinki looks at the two swords on the ground and says "Would anyone mind if I took one of these?" If there are no objections, he will pick up which ever one attracts his attention the most, putting the dagger in his belt for the moment.
Then he will turn his attention to the feyling champion "Maybe we can help him by removing this chain-mail. It seems to be burning him..." With that he will start helping the feyling out of the armor. Once that is accomplished he will try to treat the feyling's burns.
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
Glordir steps forward and talks to the fey in elven "Each of us come from a long line of warriors and we are powerful indeed. We will fight to free you from her rule. None of you should suffer under Her."
Glordir will also look to use one of the swords that were dropped by their champion since his sword seems to be lost to the earth.
The two magic swords - holy swords, you believe, imbued with the powers of whatever gods of the days of yore might sanctified them - lie quietly on the ground, next to the weak and feeble 'Elephant Man'. Whatever kind of power the tortured little creature was supposed to exert over you, it has not been able to summon it.
None of the two swords seems to emit a magic aura that calls to anyone of you - but a magic aura both blades have, as Glordir and Cailín will inadvertedly notice. The runes on the metal seem to glow, and the runic writing on the weapons seems different, yet strangely similar on them:
You all are aware that the signs on the blades are similar - but that they probably do not mean the same things. There is more magic to this than just holy spells; is this what "wild magic", the magic of the Elders, truly looks like?
The fey remain silent to your questions, but, indeed, the spell of darkness retrocedes further, revealing a couple of ramshackle huts, and torn-down wooden buildings. Most of the fey look strangely thin and sick... Though you realize you have no idea what well-nourished, healthy feylings actually look like. - But these, their faces are dirty, their white hair looks strangely dull and hay-like.
It's like with the 'Elephant Man' that Sveinki, and whoever might have the spirit to help him, slowly pull out of his grotesque armor: The fey seem drained; still, they appear ageless, but at the same time, alien within what should be their natural habitat. These are the shepherds of the trees; they should glow, and timelessly dance under the trees. Not stagger around below them, like tiny little drunkards.
Only James will get an answer to his question - or, at least it be possible to interpret what the fey say next, again, as a tiny chorus, as an answer to him:
"She is the one who must be obeyed. She orders, and we follow. She demands a sacrifice, and we give, and do not question."
The little feyling that Sveinki pulls out of the armor appears, in some way younger, if that is possible, and softer than the other fey, broken as he is.
You can see that it's likely not the first time he has been submitted to this sort of torture. There are scars on him, of past burns.
Glordir will know that it is almost impossible to permanently scar a feyling, because like the trees and the flowers they shepherd, they are supposed to have a strong power of regeneration. Whoever commanded the little creature to put on the Cold Iron must have hurt it immensely to obtain this sort of result.
From under the vanishing magic curtain emerges Wenchell, alive.
But he, too, looks battered, and has been through a harsh process, from all you tell - even if the scene, again, might seem funnier in a later tale than it is in reality.
The valiant farmer has been stripped naked, bound on a stake, gagged with what looks like a rotten apple, and been laid over a fireplace. Wenchell has apparently noticed what was going on, and stares into your direction, tears and white slime pouring out of his eyes, like when people are sick from the gallbladder.
He seems unharmed so far, and the ashes below him seem old.
...As do the white bones inside the fire pit that you can see, even from this far away.
But... If they wanted to cannibalize him, why did the fey not kill him, and bleed him out, first, like you mortals do with pigs, or cattle?
Old children's rhymes might come to your minds, and tales your old nans told you when you were little:
Fey are cold-blooded. To feel the warmth of human emotion they need to feed on it.
Before Serafin goes to unbind Winchell, Sveinki will give him Cailin's dagger with a:
"Here you may need this."
Sveinki continues to get the feyling out of the chainmail. As he does so he will evaluate whether it is large enough to be used by anyone in the party and what it is made of. While he works he calls out:
"Restore to us our companion and our equipment and we will do what we can to free you! Tell us, do you expect your mistress to come here or will we need to go seek her?"
Last Edit: Oct 7, 2016 7:15:23 GMT -6 by gsvenson: added a bit
Greg Svenson, aka "The Great Svenny" Original Blackmoor Participant
"We cannot fight an enemy we know nothing about," Cailín says. "Well, we could,," she muses, thinking of the mud elemental, "but we stand a much better chance of surviving if we know what we were getting ourselves into."