Soon, the town is lost behind them as the road leads into a dark forest. Septuos questions the party as the cart rolls along, and the party realizes that none of them can remember any of what has lead them to this strange land. Septuos, frustrated, nevertheless writes down what little the party reveals, hoping to fix his book and his reputation.
The cart rolls along through the forest as the light dims. Past a clearing with a strange white rock and a large tree stump.
Twenty minutes later, the cart rolls by a clearing with a strange white rock and a large tree stump. Booty, recognition dawning, begins to feel something might be wrong. Uriah takes notice as well and, swearing under his breath, whips his team of horses into a gallop.
“Oh no…” Septuos intones, white-faced, “We should have waited until tomorrow. It’s too dark.” He nervously cranes his neck around, searching the dark woods around them as they speed by.
Something spooks the horses, and with a loud whinny the cart swerves, loses balance, and begins tumbling down the road.
The party is thrown clear, and when they come to their senses they look up to find a thick, noxious darkness pressing in from around them. At the limits of their vision, they can barely make out dark shapes circling them. The horses have been dragged off into this darkness, and Uriah lies near the edge of the light, terribly wounded.
Septuos rushes quickly to his friend’s side, and bends down to hear somthing Uriah seems to be whispering. When he hears it his eyes widen and what little color is left in his face drains.
“No. No no no nononononono.” He trails off as the party hears Uriah’s whisper, echoed from all around them.
“Eld Fen,” the forest speaks. In many voices, man and beast and tree, it builds into a pulsing refrain: “Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen. Eld Fen…”
The darkness seems to part, and a bare-chested figure walks slowly out from it. There is a smell of deep things, of earth and soil. A bass thumping like a hearbeat.
It is freakishly tall, with bone-white skin. It’s arms are long, ending in long, sharp, knife-like fingers.
It’s head is that of a great stag, antlers towering over it’s already tall frame. The stag’s eyes glisten with decaying motion. The head looks to be sewn on.
It raises a hand out to them and the whispers cease. It gestures:
The party does not. Gearshift throws several fireballs at the creature. It doesn’t attempt to move, the fire knocking off it’s flesh. As it falls to the ground, it loses coherence and turns into a mass of sizzling beatles, worms, maggots, and other bugs. It is not hurt. It gestures again:
Gear throws another fireball with similar results. There is a giant, wrenching sound, followed by a collosal thud, and they are suddenly elsewhere.
Whatever it was, it is gone now. And so is the road. The only thing recognizable is the small clearing with the stone and the stump. A small path leads into the darkening forest behind it.
As they pass it, Booty stoops to inspect the white stone and find that it is a greatly eroded base, maybe of some ancient sculpture. The only thing that can be made out are two words: Eld Fen.
The party marches down the only path available to them. They find their way ahead blocked by numerous ancient traps of varying sophistication. As Marlow disables some of them he recognizes his own sign, placed in secrecy. He does not remember it, but they must have been here before.
An hour later they emerge, intact, into a large forest clearing. They are immediately ambushed by a group of Elven Fen Shaman, worshippers of Eld Fen. One even takes it’s form and rushes at them with a roar.
The party, working together, manages to slay most of their enemies when there is a loud Snap! And suddenly the forest, and it’s inhabitants, are frozen, motionless.
“This is getting boring, isn’t it.” The Man In White sighs. He snaps his fingers once more and a flurry of hovering needles flies out to dispose of the remaining elves.
“Seriously, no thanks? Why you ingrateful…” The Man In White rages. Behind him, a tree jerks into motion and creeps up silently. The tree’s crown looks like antlers. It lifts a large, club like limb, and swats The Man like a fly.
The Man In White recovers and comes to a stop, hovering, in the air. He snaps his finger and is back in the center of the clearing. He looks up plaintively at the tree and his voice takes on a different character.
“Almost all the rest have yielded, but you? You continue to resist. It’s pointless, surely you must know that…” He turns, looks disgustedly at the group, then snaps his fingers once more and is gone.
The tree’s motion slows, then stops, and from behind it out it steps: Eld Fen. It motions once more at them:
Less afraid, the party follows as the figure turns and walks towards the cave entrance. Passing over what appears to be a stone threshold, its figure disintegrates into insects and slumps to the ground, skittering off into the dark inside.
Gathering closer, they see that it isn’t a cave but a massive stone doorway, set into stone walls completely covered by foliage and moss.
They enter to find themselves in another cathedral. It’s design, though cruder and more ancient, mirrors The Sanctum they found themselves in earlier. There are seven alcoves with seven statues, most worn and weathered.
Booty finds herself in front of a statue that bears a striking resemblance to her sister, but this statue is clearly hundreds of years old. Behind the statue she finds a fist sized sphere of polished black glass, warm to the touch.
Marlow stands in front of a statue that matches exactly the picture in Septuos’s book, down to the sword being pulled from a hat. He carefully installs the crystal mechanism from the previous statue and places his hand on it. Several strange minutes later, he wears a hat. Nobody bothers to ask where it came from.
High above them the dark night sky begins to grow lighter, pink. It reveals the broken remains of a stained glass window with the same seven-circle motif.
They proceed through the back of the cathedral and come upon a stone balcony on a cliff side. Outlined against the rising sun, they see The City, glimmering and enormous, at a great distance. There is a flickering of flame at it’s base. The sun catches on the bronze towers and crystal spires and shines brilliantly. The City, outlined against the sunrise, stirs something in Agon and he stands a while on the balcony, staring as though he recognizes something.
Septuos shouts to them from down below and they follow a narrow stone staircase into the forest below. They arrive in a hollow in the forest occupied by a stone henge.
“Well, this will either do nothing, take us to The City immediately, or kill us,” says Septuos grimly.
As the sun begins to break through the leaves to reach the forest floor, they step through.