Although the players from the main group were all busy with Thanksgiving festivities, I had visitors from out of town who wanted to play, so we had a game on Saturday.
Cast of Characters:
Thorgrim (Dwarf Cleric 4)
Rebecca (Elf Fighter 4)
Baron (war dog, who Thorgrim can speak with due to a Knack)
These two had done some exploration in the Perlammo Salt Mines (at Thanksgiving last year), but having heard rumors that another group of adventurers had pretty thoroughly cleaned that area out decided to look for other adventuring opportunities. At the Grand Casino of Boreon they met Greenthistle, a renegade half-elf from the Whither Woods, who offered to serve as a guide in that area and lead them to the elves' best treasures. They also picked up a rumor of an enchanter in town named Nestor who had disappeared into the woods some months back, after possibly having gone insane. So, defying the prohibition on non-elves entering that forest they took off in that direction, planning to tell any elves they ran across that they were looking for their missing friend Nestor (and figuring that, with Rebecca herself being an elf, albeit a meadow-dwelling high elf from the north, that should be sufficient to avoid them being summarily slain).
After a few days crawling through the woods they had various minor encounters, including an unfriendly hermetic pig farmer who they suspect was likely Nestor the insane ex-enchanter, and picked up vague rumors that the elves in the western part of the forest had gone wild and strange. However, when they encountered the elf village of Willowtarn, the inhabitants were surprisingly non-hostile, and in exchange for Thorgrim healing an injured elf-maid with a broken leg offered them food and hospitality, including a strange herbal tea that they call the soma. The party became increasingly suspicious as they noticed a distinct lack of the otherwise-ubiquitous mundane wildlife (squirrels, birds, etc) around the village, as well as a lack of any elf-children or spellcasters, and that many of the village's dwellings and trees showed signs of old but unrepaired scorching and battle damage. Greenthistle the guide was particularly unnerved and insisted these elves were not acting normally at all, and discreetly refused to sample any of their food or soma (the other two did sample both, but were unaffected, perhaps due to Thorgrim's naturally strong dwarfish constitution and the magical periapt Rebecca had acquired on a previous adventure). They were shown to a hut to spend to the night, that upon examination appeared to have been the home of a druid but was dusty and neglected and hadn't been inhabited for some time. Realizing that some elves were standing giard outside their hut Thorgrim cast a discreet Know Alignment and upon scanning the guards confirmed his suspicion that they were, in fact, chaotic evil, so they decided to sneak out of the village rather than waiting for morning, and managed to do so successfully.
When morning came they spotted a group of elves on a path headed west out of the village and followed them to a blighted area where all of the trees and other plants were infected with various molds and fungi, and eventually to a massive (200' tall) oak tree in the center of the blighted patch, with a 10' diameter shaft at its base which the elves descended into. Greenthistle declined to follow the party into the hole, so they made arrangements for him to travel back to a meeting place a couple miles away and wait for their return.
Inside the hole they found a series of narrow winding tunnels dug into the muddy earth but, unable to determine which way the elves had gone, went wandering and encountered various unpleasant fungal monsters, most notably a patch of black moss that drained 24 hours of Thorgrim's memory, leaving him very confused about where he was and why. Rebecca informed him the moss had done it and that he needed to destroy it before she too was affected in the same way. Thorgrim's only current memory was that Rebecca had told him to destroy the moss patch, so they did so, but were then at a loss for where they were or what to do, until Thorgrim found a map drawn in his own hand showing a path from the elf village and a set of tunnels. A quick consultation with Baron the dog confirmed that they were missing a day of memory but had followed the elves here from the village and that the elves were enemies. Alas, nobody knew or remembered what had become of Greenthistle the guide (because Baron the dog doesn't understand people language to know what Thorgrim and Rebecca had discussed with him).
Some further exploration brought them into contact with a group of elf guards who they captured and interrogated, learning that they are followers of Ianthe the dryad who dwells beneath this great oak and supplies them with the soma. Asking how long she had been doing so, the elves were unable to answer, and their best guess was "umm, forever?" Venturing into the next chamber they encountered a group of fungus-men who were too strong and numerous to fight so they fled back to the surface with their elf-prisoners in tow. Taking those prisoners back to the oak of the dryad Eulalia (whom they had previously encountered in their earlier wanderings) she was vexed to hear that her sister was causing trouble (but also unsurprised, since she hadn't heard from her in a long time) but, unable to do anything about it herself, directed them instead to the nearby elf-village of Glenbrook.
After Rebecca explained to the inhabitants of that village what they had encountered and handed over their prisoners, the chief druid Moonmist examined them, as well as the supply of food and soma the party had recovered from their camp, and confirmed that the food was tainted and the elves were under a malign influence of unknown origin, and that something strange is definitely afoot since dryads aren't normally familiar with herbalism and certainly not anything based around mold or fungi. A contingent of elves from Glenbrook village joined with the party as they returned to the caves beneath Ianthe's oak where the group did battle with and defeated the first batch of 16 fungus men, but used up so many of their resources in that battle and, hearing another group approaching from deeper within the tunnels, expeditiously retreated back to their village, bringing the session to an end.
Although these two explored a lot of ground and did a lot of fighting (and had a lot of fun and wanted to keep going but it had gotten too late), they recovered negligible treasure and almost everything they fought in the dryad-cave is capable of respawning, so it's likely their activity will have negligible visible impact on the area if and when the other party makes their way here. The one definite consequence is that Greenthistle the guide, after waiting most of the day at the appointed meeting spot, fled back to civilization with a new rumor to spread to anyone who will listen at the Casino - about the village of evil elves deep in the Whither Woods, the fungal-blighted giant oak tree with a cave-entrance at its base, and the group of adventurers who descended into that cave and never returned! Will that story be sufficiently intriguing to draw the attention of our other adventuring party away from the Perlammo Salt Mines? Unlikely, since they seem very single-minded and meticulous in their focus on that location, but we'll find out one way or the other this coming Sunday...