Knowing that the rangers would know their map was stolen, the Party decided to split to confuse any pursuers: Althea would take the Huntress and find a place to dock in the shores of the Misty Woods, while Glinish would lead the rest through the forest.
The journey to the woods’ took two days worth of traveling along the coast. Thanks to Glinish’s uncanny ranging skills the Party was not followed, and on 6th of Shedding they found themselves at the edges of the Misty Woods. Unassuming from the distance, the woods’ majestic nature became only apparent when the Party entered: The undergrowth was invisible under a near-constant white layer of mist, and the forest canopy rose into impossible heights, plunging the insides of the woods in perpetual dusk.
Knowing that word had probably gotten to the relatively safe northern part of the Misty Woods where the Kurrach’ border patrols would be alert, Glinish decided to risk the southern edge, which was Murguax’s private hunting field. As they headed south, the footpaths became deer paths, lined with sharp, nasty razorvines.
After almost a day’s travel, the Party happened across one of the hidden wonders of Misty Woods: A gigantic carved statue of a dragon, with glowing emeralds as its eyes. As the Party took in the wonders, Glinish let his senses merge with the land, attempting to sense the presence of any extraordinary beings, such as dragons. His worries were founded: A dragon was nearby, behind the Party. But he sensed another, more curious creature. A radiant being from beyond the material world: A celestial.
The Party picked up the pace, which was unfortunately futile. Murguax caught them. Carric used his magic to hide himself and the elf sage Sunder, while Glinish and Dulkan hid using only their wits. As the huge green dragon drew near, he was impressed at the Party’s abilities, revealing that he thought them as merely more competent spies. Just a scant few meters away from the hidden heroes, Murguax roared, sending a spike of pure terror into the hearts of the Party. While Glinish, being desensitized to the presence of a dragon and Sunder, trusting his newfound friends, resisted the urge to panic, Carric and Dulkan faltered. Carric, as an unconscious automated response, could only watch and take notes on the amazing being. But the slightest clink of his ink bottle was enough: Murguax fixed his gaze at the exact point where he was.
The Party ran.
Murguax breathed pure poison at Carric, more to terrify the sorcerer further than to merely kill him. Glinish, knowing that he would need to keep the party as together as possible, dashed after him through the poison, nearly dying in the process. The duo ran, the mocking laughter of Murguax hot on their heels. After realizing that the dragon was driving them towards somewhere, Glinish diverged, heading inexorably east towards their ultimate goal. This did not go well with the dragon, who became tired with the chase. Murguax landed in front of them with disheartening speed. “Your time is up.”
But in the thicket beside, Carric saw a light. He and his companion jinked away into the narrower path, merely inconveniencing the dragon who dived after them. The narrow, difficult path led to a serene little pond, with no way out. The heroes dived deep, just as another cloud of lethal poisons filled the air behind them. The only way was deeper down…
…and suddenly they surfaced. It was the pond, but different. The woods were knobbly and sickly green, small lights danced in the air and the stone they had dived from was smooth and carved with symbols. Sylvan symbols, as Carric could recognize. But most importantly, there were no pursuing dragons in sight.
Meanwhile, Dulkan and Sunder, along with Nini, Glinish’s pet pseudodragon had managed to find each other. Wondering about what to do, Sunder was contacted telepathically. Some entity offered them a path to safety. Wary, but without a better alternative, Dulkan and Sunder followed the directions. They were led to a promenade in the middle of the forest, with a clear stone floor and two rows of columns connected to each other by an arch. Each arch had a carving of one of the Divines on it. Their mysterious benefactor had instructed them to pray for Zariss, so the heroes investigated the archway… And found themselves in the same place, except that the columns were more ornate, more otherworldly… And there was a terrible, five-headed dragonlike monster waiting for them!
Again they were running for their lives, but this time the monster was stopped in its tracks by entangling vines. As they left the creature behind, their rescuer approached… A gleaming white horse with a golden mane flowing in an ethereal wind and a single horn proudly protruding from its forehead… A unicorn!
The unicorn, Gwyn, brought the Party together in the otherworldly realm they had found themselves in. She had helped them out of pure generosity and offered to lead them to another “door” where they could return to the “Other Side”. When questioned what the place was, Gwyn told that she was the last Beautiful One living in the woods. The corruption and poison that was seeping through the doors was the influence of what she called “the child”, apparently meaning Murguax. The green dragon had apparently managed a guardian of his own to safeguard these borders: The beast, known as Hydra.
Without hesitation, the Party offered to kill the Hydra. Delighted by the nobility of the heroes but fearful for their lives, Gwyn took their offer. After some planning, the Party decided to trap the remains of a landlocked ship in a clearing near the Hydra’s lair and lure it there. Ropes, hunting traps and nets would attempt to keep it in place while the Party would pour oil and fire on it. Glinish put his hunting experience to the limit as he set up the snares and the traps.
After the hard work the Party decided to rest overnight and tackle the Hydra in the morning, despite Gwyn’s warnings that people could “forget themselves” in the woods. Carric, however, returned to the pond, for the stepping stone’s sylvan symbols spelled a pretty poem. Inspired by it, Carric had a refreshing swim and followed it with a trip to another clearing that Gwyn told had singing faces carved into the stone. The stones’ singing lured the Hydra to the clearing, where it promptly gave chase to Carric.
The sorcerer fled to the ship, but his luck ran out. Three of the beast’s snapping heads caught Carric and savaged him unconscious. Before it could finish him, Gwyn charged in, kicking and turning its attention to her. The Hydra, finally catching the unicorn that had frustrated it, bit and bit, nearly ending her life. She teleported her and Glinish, carrying unconscious Carric to the ship.
But while the sorcerer was unconscious, her contributions were instrumental. Both Glinish and Dulkan had imbibed her flame breath potions, brewed from Khariss’ blood. The flaming breaths burned the Hydra, who pursued Dulkan right into the trap. Injured by the snares, flaming oils and arrows, it attempted to escape before succumbing to the flames.
With Gwyn’s magic, Carric was up again. But the Hydra had gotten her left eye, which refused to heal. However, the half-elf had no time to lament the loss, as the Party controlled the fire, extracted useful parts of the Hydra carcass and investigated its lair. Among the saddening remains they found the dead body of a dwarf, perhaps lured to his doom by an incomprehensible treasure map. Interestingly, he had a broken elaborate circular object with him. It probably was, at some point, a magical item. His warpick held clues to his identity, but the Party would need access to a library to investigate.
After they were done, Gwyn escorted the Party to a safe doorway to the Other Side. As a parting gift, she allowed Carric to cut a strand of her mane, a gift the sorcerer valued dearly. The Party traveled through the gigantic, beautiful tree and found themselves back in the Misty Woods, in a forgotten shrine to Mishra. After the longest and strangest night, they finally made camp and rested, pleased to know that the Living Tomb was only a short jaunt away….