At the 50th Birthday party of Muriel Rose Rory enquired of rumours and quests in the surrounding lands with the Landlady’s daughter Lucille Rose who pulled him to one side from prying eyes and curious ears. Being a Knight Errant with a reputation to uphold he was hesitant to be caught alone with the young girl instead lingering within sight of the other guests.
For the first time her eyes glowed with a peculiar hunger. "Passing tongues speak of a strange clan roaming the borderlands creaking and groaning in the cover of night.” She regales in a hushed whisper watching her mother out of the corner of her eye. As Rory turned to check on Muriel the young lady firmly gripped his arm urgent to get the conversation over with. “From the tallest point of the Dawnstone I’ve seen a sea of dim lights in the marshes and each night that passes fewer of them shine.” As soon as the last words had hastily left her lips her mother’s curiosity peaked and she wandered over to inspect the curious exchange which is duly cut short.
As Rory returned to the room he finds his new companions have also met new acquaintances, but he may have made an enemy in one envious resident…
The following evening the travellers spend the night in the tavern chatting to locals and a new trader who has arrived in town. After being asked by Muriel to investigate the mysterious cloaked man they form a plan and question the villagers. Their investigations are cut short with the sound of a small rock hurled at the tavern door. Marcella (ignoring Rory’s pleas) tore open the door and crouched down to toss the rock off the doorstep. Denilyth immediately questioned her revealing he had seen the note attached and demanding answers. Marcella eventually caves pulling the loud elf into the adjoining corridor. On a small scrap of paper was scribbled. “The Dawnstone – come alone” and above the unmistakeable crude drawings of Elsbeth with an owl, Rory with his sword and shield and Denilyth apparently dying in a hot bath his elven ears offensively exaggerated.
Lucille met them at the chapel and silently led them up into the bell tower. Appealing to Rory’s knightly duties she begs the three to venture south and help the poor people below before all the lights are extinguished. Only six remain and Lucille has become increasingly distressed. Kaylin relieves her and requests that Rory do the right thing. “The town Militia can protect us here but these people need your help, go to them and you will find great reward and renown!” The party sense that he is somewhat too eager for them to take the challenge, perhaps to hide his part in the previous nights events? Or much more likely to put Ser Rory out of the impressionable young Lucille’s mind at least for a short while…
The trio rise late for breakfast the following morning and are given food and water for the journey south. They set off through the fields of late summer barely, carving a weaving path adjacent to the River Eau as she jumps and trickles along mossy boulders and rocky pools. Elsbeth leads the way estimating where she saw the lights the night just past and the party wave farewell to the concerned couple watching their progress to the marshes from the bell tower of the Dawnstone.
The afternoon ploughs on with each of the heroes enjoying their journey through picturesque meadows and paddocks. As the sun begins to set the group prepare for the evening; Elsbeth hunts a meal and forages for nuts and berries nearby leaving the two inexperienced travellers to create a fire and find shelter. Much to her disappointment the young half-elf burdened with fish, birds and fruits, finds Rory sitting proudly by a thick lump of green wood billowing a vast white choking cloud across the valley, and Denilyth squeezing rocks beneath a crumbling boulder with the hopes of letting the others slide into the hazardous shelter. Elsbeth quickly amends their attempts and teaches them the basics anyone on the road should, and had assumed would, know.
Sitting about the campfire the group decide to share bone chilling stories, Denilyth rapidly found he had a knack for it, much to Rory’s discomfort.
They eat well that night and sleep just as well, Rory excluded. Those with Elven heritage agree to take a watch knowing Rory’s human form would not deal with the lack of rest as effectively. They spend their time adjusting outfits and reading tomes and fail to notice the ever dwindling number of lights below, or that one was now approaching.
The following day begins with the remnants of fish from supper. A few hours into their day they find the landscape adjusting. Fields and Meadows give way to rocky outcrops and mossy ground. A rocky bluff sheltered a breathtaking lake; crystal clear waters welcome the heroes to swim, or for those less enthusiastically athletic, cooling ones feet with his nose in a good book. Denilyth, keen to prove his new skills sets a small fire on the bank and brews a fragrant cup of elven tea, whilst Rory and Elsbeth enjoy the waters. A cat sized frog rustles out of the nearby reeds and eyes the Elf excitedly. He takes a single hop toward the impatient magus who takes up a long branch and nudges the animal letting out a noise of revulsion. “Eugh! Shoo!” He calls attracting the attention of the nearby druid. With the sound of a cracking whip a huge tongue snaps out of the reeds, coiling tightly about the end of the stick and tugging it into the mouth of a gargantuan frog who splinters it threateningly between its fleshy gums before swallowing it whole. Seeing the larger frog Denilyth abandons the bank vanishing and reappears half way up a tree on the opposite bank. Meanwhile Rory creeps closer to his pack using his ability to train animals to show he means no harm. Elsbeth creates soothing empathic croaks and garbles until the angry mother collects her children in her mouth and returns territorially to the reeds grouching and belching all the way. As soon as the trio breathe a collective sigh of relief one of the young frogs hops back into sight coughing a small stone onto the druids foot before scampering back into the reeds at the angry warbles of its mother.
The rest of the day passes uneventfully; setting up camp by the light of the dusk sun they estimate the source of the light is now less than a day away. As night falls they watch the marsh below each realising something has changed, for on this evening there are no lantern lights seen flickering in the night breeze. The heroes take it in turns to fall into an uncomfortable yet uneventful sleep until Rory takes the final watch. A shadow clings to a great piece of slate jutting from the valleys side. Slowly its webbed feet pull a glistening body to the top of the rock. Exhausted and desperate he knows he must succeed. He pulls out and ornate dagger and races silently up the tree trunk and down the other side holding his blade to the human’s neck. He flinches for his sword but a great pink whip snaps out and unsheathes the blade onto the moss a body’s length away leaving the Knight defenceless. “Why have you come here?” He croaks coldly.
“We came to investigate the lights, we’re here to help” Calls Elsbeth from behind a nearby tree. “Then we have no time to spare he croaks ushering the heroes to pack their bags as he explains the current siege of his home; Guappo.
“Boggard came” He explains; “They took the villagers hostage and our cowardly king escaped, leaving us to our own fate along with his own helpless daughter! They seek our secret resistance to the swamp and its poisons. Alas the true heir to the throne remains trapped in the lake palace, the Boggards cannot reach her yet but they’ll find a way.”
He led the group through the hazy swamp across tree roots arching over misty murky waters. Bugs and flies nipped and bit as they struggled onward. Suddenly and without warning a huge green-brown anaconda shot up through the vines narrowly missing Denilyths right shoulder before landing amongst the roots opposite. Denelyth and Rory set to stabbing it and firing magic through the roots. Beauvoir joined the scrap as the Elf split its belly with a well place swing of his sword.
As Elsbeth and Ser Trepli prepared for the Anaconda to strike out in their direction another flew out of the swamp viciously clamping on Trepli’s small head. Screaming a high pitch croak of pain he lifted his sword and powerfully brought it down upon the snake causing it to lose its hold on him, Elsbeth beat about the snakes thick body using her staff to bash the creature back into the swamp. Rory took up a small dagger having dropped his sword amongst the roots and grabbed the snake’s head as it lunged for the Frog Knight once again clamoping its jaw shut with one hand and stabbing it clean through the brain with ease. Trepli put the huge anaconda in a satchel and continued along the gnarled path of twisted roots.
Within an hour they were passing through the gateways into the deserted swamp town of Guappo, the short buildings consisting of intertwining levels carved out of the thick tree roots or constructed of smooth clay and mud. Wood and rope bridges cross the higher levels of the town and at the centre is a still murky pool. The swamp seems to pass south through the centre of the town.
Each large wooden house is covered with leafy climbers and topped with a thick and thriving moss. Semi circle windows lean out intermittently with cross sections carved of dying vines, the pane itself is rarely glass but all manner of smooth translucent material, delicately polished slices of gemstones and jewels make up the majority.
Along each path deep gashes appear along the higher roots, each cut is brightly lit by hundreds of brilliant green bottomed flies emitting a warm glow. From afar they make mesmerising clouds undulating in their own warmth. At the doors strange looking pine cones hang from the archways crawling with more of the bugs. There are no lights within any of the buildings other than the building on the bank opposite, in which the heroes spot two shadowy sentinels at the door.
On the centre of the misty lake huge lily pads bloom. Each has a brilliant white flower apart from the largest most central pad. Upon this pad sits a flower made of polished metals. Each petal is formed of mixed origin apparent in the colouration and hammered smoothness of the metals. Climbing cautiously up a petal is a slight Grippli of electric blue, decorated with beaded strings about her arms and a golden necklace hanging upon her chest. Seeing the party she smiles and leans back into her hiding place. Elsbeth taking note and moves to ask Trepil about this mysterious character but is interrupted by a shout from Rory: “There, in that flower! Who’s that!?” Gripping Rory the team dart behind a nearby building just in time, as an intrigued but tired looking Boggard surveys the scene from a bridge above. Ser Rory quickly devises a plan and leaves the others to hide and ready their ambush. Carefully placing himself out of sight of the occupied building Rory staggers out groaning under the pain of his mortal wounds. The Boggard, taking the bait, rushes down to Rory feigning concern but readying his weapon to finish the job. As he reaches Rory an arrow snaps into the boggard, Beauvoir crashes into the back of his head and Ser Trepil springs like a rocket from a nearby roof smashing a beep gauge into the intruder’s skull.
Ser Rory and Trepil creep into the upper storey of the hostage building and await a signal from below. From their hiding places outside Elsbeth and Denilyth watch the priestess create a copy of herself across the pond luring the doormen away. Once outside the Elf looses an arrow into the boggards and Elsbeth entangles them in the root strewn floor. Trepil and Rory charge down into the room each initiating an exchange with one of the guards. The Boggard outside are dispatched of with the help of the priestess’ powerful magics, the heroes converging to free the remaining hostages indoors. With the last few hostages fleeing to the upper floors a huge boggard charges a lagging boggard child ignoring the armed assailants. The child hops bravely between the brutes legs causing him to stumble over. As he flies through the air Denilyth is quick to cast a spray of blinding colour into his eyes, but not before Trepil is thrown across the room by a heavy swing of the Boggards morning star. Rory helps the limp Grippli to the stairs where the priestess is eager to take over. Meanwhile Denilyth, Beauvoir and Elsbeth make quick work of the unconscious beast.
The hostages return to their homes grateful of their freedom. The local innkeeper offers them a warm place to stay that night. Denilyth and Elsbeth are quick to accept, tasting their first dartroot draught before bed, whilst Rory opts to re-enact his bravery with some of the local children. When shown to their rooms they are surprised to find small rounded chambers in the walls, for some slightly too much like honeycomb, filled with soft warm moss to dive into. Jack hands each of the heroes a swinging pinecone surrounded by excited Lumo flies, explaining to a curious Elsbeth that the flies are attracted to the sap he has dipped the pine cone in and that eventually they will disperse once it dries or is eaten. It is the perfect alternative to fire which would cause the Grippli great discomfort and unnecessary heat.
The following morning the priestess Shameya asks to speak with Elsbeth taking her to the temple at the towns centre. She explains that it was made from the most valuable materials known to the Grippli, traded from men since the earliest of years, though none have come of late. At its core a huge white lily flower is tended to. Services are held by the priestess on this holy pad each week and the Grippli find their places according to age, climbing upon the tiered outstretched metal petals so as to view the central speaker. She encourages the heroes to free the princess whilst the town’s people attempt to harvest their food and assess the damage in the town. She gives each a white lily smaller and more fragile than the ones surrounding them; they appear almost constructed of delicate white crystal. Ser Trepil receives a visit next and informs them that as a member of the Queens Guard he was privy to knowledge that a secret passageway to the tower exists but he does not know where. He also warns the heroes that they should not approach the waters of the lake or the ‘Still Lady’ will consume them.
The tower is unlike the other buildings, constructed of pure white stone it stands on a small island at the centre of a lake. It is pristine as though built only a day before with ornate carved windows of gleaming glass at intervals around the circular body. The heroes are led off the path by Denilyth’s glowing flower, said to be the elders communing with the adventurers. Fighting their way through bramble and briar they arrive at a huge oddly smooth tree inscribed with drawings depicting the start of the settlement. Looking over the drawings the tree nearest the tower, and etched with drawings shows a small frog poking out. The heroes step through the trunk appearing on the opposite bank. An inspetion of the island reveals that the clear waters hold no reflection, that there is no door to enter the tower and that the surrounding lake is protected by magic but only around the banks. Given that Elsbeth is sure that the tower had a reflection from the opposite bank, Rory dives into the lake in search of the reflection. It is clear as soon as he breaks the water that the reflection seen from above is the same tower built below the waters. This copy of the tower appears weathered and crumbling, its walls choked with vines. Rory spots a large set of double doors in the tower below the lake and enters, tugging on the great brass handles. Suddenly he finds himself the other side of the doors and plummeting to the polished marble floor below. He rises half expecting to be swimming, but finds himself feet firmly panted in a foot or so of water. He breathes deeply in the empty tower wondering how the air is kept inside, before swimming back up to collect his friends. This time he is ready for it as he yanks the doors open. Still he falls on his back recovering quickly in the vain hope that no-one else witnessed his failed attempt. Looking over he sees Elsbeth close to being on top of Denilyth having tried to break her own fall.
The heroes glance around the abandoned tower, two huge carved statues of A regal looking Grippli stand atop two balconies flanking an ornate sweeping staircase. At the top of the stairs they find a small door hidden behind one of the statues. An algae covered staircase leads them to around the outside of the tower to the next floor. Alcoves break up the panelled walls, filled with statues of the Grippli from the lower storey. The trio find the King’s chambers containing a large decorative bed and a ornate desk, searching them they find a small wooden box hidden at the back of the desk drawer. Inside they discover an acid green quill, a small ring with a face of pearl carved with bubbles, a small well worn leather diary which appears empty and a delicately carved bottle of ocean green fluid which Denilyth identifies as a potion of water breathing. Across the hall a locked door causes Denilyth and Rory difficulty resulting in them charging into it as it eerily opens causing them to land uncomfortably over the threshold. Clearly some sort of meeting room the wizard rifles through the books bagging the first and end in a long series of Grippli history and nobility.
Moving up the next set of stairs the party hear a hauntingly beautiful melody from above, enchanting enough to be the voice of a princess! Hurrying onwards they find the next floor is one continuous library. With books stacked floor to ceiling Denilyth grabs a few of the books to aide in his understanding of the Grippli language and culture. Finally they reach the highest floor. The trio find a small atechamber at the top of the stairs, housing a large set of carved white doors with a pearl plaque housig a key hole beneath the handles. Elsbeth notices that part of the roof is missing and that fish can be seen swimming upside-down beyond the boundaries. Meanwhile Rory and Denilyth press themselves against the door to request the young lady beyond unlock it so they might rescue her. “Where is my father!?” She calls back “Only he has the key, he used to keep on a thin chain about his neck or hidden in his chambers.” The party sweep back downstairs thoroughly searching the room until it dawns on them that perhaps his chambers weren’t in the tower below. The head to the entrance hall to the place deepest flooded and therefore closest to the tower above: beneath the grand staircase. Her they find a pair of submerged trapdoors either side of the stairs. Denilyth is given the potion and chosen to proceed given his ability to swim and spot the unusual or out of place. Entering the trapdoor he finds himself somersaulting into the exact same hall as he left, this time below the surface of the lake. He swims quickly through the complex noting the identical layout and items. When he comes to the bedroom something is different… He lets out a croak as he turns to find a decaying Grippli king laid to rest upon the bed. The elf quickly snatches up the key, the bubble ring and a few books before his curiosity leads him astray. Leaving the room to return to his allies he is gripped with a desire to see if the princess is trapped in this world too. He swims further in until he finds a young Grippli in the highest room sat sobbing softly into her pillow. As the elf swims closer the girl stops, turning slowly towards him with cold dark eyes. Suddenly she lets out a terrifying hiss and her eyes turn a dangerous beady red staring into his end. Suddenly Denilyth’s potion wears off; he turns putting distance between the two and eventually splashes out into the murky waters of the tower below. He explains what he has seen and the party hurry to the princess before any other strange occurrences find them.
The party reach the top floor and the singing stops once again. Denilyth thrusts the key into the door. The delicate key shatters followed by a resounding click of a tumbler releasing. Beyond a cursed princess stands at a window; her long flowing auburn hair bounces down to the small of her back, studded with emerald kelp and brilliant pearls. Her acid green dress is in excellent repair and accentuates her feminine form. As she turns to greet her rescuers her curse becomes apparent. Her skin, blemish free, is smooth as silk, her large innocent eyes a beautiful hazel and her lips the colour of a blushing rose. The hideous form with which she was cursed is that of a dry skinned fleshy form of human-kind.
Elsbeth begins to shut the door behind them creaking it slowly closed. It catches for a brief moment and in the void of noise the party notice that they have been followed… A rattling groan creeps up the stairs and sickly looking frogs hop purposefully up the stairwell. In the shadows beyond two pin prick red eyes glint menacingly from the decaying skull of the dead king. The trio launch themselves further into the room, Elsbeth shoving the princess away from the door as Rory and Denilyth push the desk on its side against the closed door. Standing back they draw their weapons.
The door snaps open at a surprising speed, to reveal the dead king. His flesh clings futilely to his exposed bone and his skin is sallow after its years underwater. His companions hop around the door and begin to climb upon each other in their eagerness to hop over the desk. Their flesh is pierced and white with rot and decay and as they swarm forward many of their number are crushed to death below the others. These unfortunate bodies have only a few seconds respite before they twitch grotesquely back to life and march determinedly onward. Before they have chance to breach the desk Elsbeth starts a small fire with some tinder and the dry bedding nearby. The frogs fall unwittingly into the fire hissing and popping with bursts of decaying fluids and puss before returning to their bodies only to suffer the same fate.
The Wight King steps over the threshold stretching a bony finger towards the princess. He lumbers forward taking heavy strikes from the blades of the two men. He pushes past Rory who feels his bone chilling touch and he carries on. The princess darts past Elsbeth to take the kings icy hands in her own. “Father?” She asks with hot tears rolling down her rosy cheeks. He speaks in a low grumble in a language only the Grippli speak. He briefly turns to the heroes nodding towards the elf before planting a gentle kiss upon her forehead. He steps back as both father and daughter smile lovingly at each other before he crumbles to dust carried on a mysterious breeze. The hissing and belching frogs following closely behind in his wake.