Down and Out in Triboar
It’s been about two weeks since our heroes put the Terror to bed, and a few days since Darathra Shendrel was handily re-elected as Lord Protector of Triboar. Trouble and treasure have been unusually scarce, although the Lord Protector has kept good on her promise, paying the adventurers a handsome stipend—even though they haven’t had to do much of anything.
During their downtime, our heroes spent very little time in each other’s company, preferring instead to embark on their own adventures. Reberkkah, always enamored with cultures that are not her own, decides to spend some time in the nastier corners of Triboar, getting to know the ins-and-outs of the local criminal ecosystem as well as the daily doings of the region’s petty laborers, drunkards, gamblers, and the like. During this time she befriended a guard named Trevor who promised to keep her apprised of the city’s goings-on. Unfortunately, she also made an enemy—in her typical Berkkie manner by saying something she didn’t realize was offensive and/or racist to an elf. In this case, it was the half-elf Genny, a local worker who didn’t appreciate Berkkie asking if she could “touch your ears” and then doing so anyway despite being told to “fuck off.” This resulted in the first bar fight of Berkkie’s career as an adventurer, and a chair being broken over her back left a nasty scar. Berkkie also managed to use some of her two weeks of downtime to finish learning some magic.
Lantro used his time to reconvene with nature and try to explore his spiritual side. Never content to stay in one place for too long—and indeed, his time in Triboar has been longer than anywhere else since he left his home in the High Forest—Lantro decided to wander the Triboar region in search for a temple to teach him the ways of the deities. It didn’t even really matter which deity, which worked out well, since the first temple he came across was the Panreligious Pantheists Society of Faerûn, a liberal temple run by one Pawpaw Jónmysteé, a reformed bugbear raider turned priest. Pawpaw’s creed is that all creeds are valid, all deities real, and the only law of the land should be that we everyone gets along with everyone else, all the time, no matter what. Lantro wasn’t sure of the feasibility of the Panreligious Pantheists’ one commandment and told Pawpaw so. The priest informed Lantro that “we’ll just have to agree to disagree” before forcibly removing him from the temple and barring him from ever returning.
Marxibis spent her time working, primarily in order to make some extra money to go carousing. One night at the Talking Troll, she met a pair of tiefling organizers for the Industrial Workers of Faerûn. The pair were attempting to unionize the Talking Troll despite it only having one employee. Marxibis, being impressed by their use of hats to hide their horns just as she has come to do with her own ten-gallon hat, joined the unionists’ cause, resulting in her being banned from the Talking Troll for life—but not before meeting a voyeurous imp in the restroom. Marxibis took on this imp as her familiar.
On the work front, Marxibis was making pretty good money, but soon learned that the work she was doing—forging various documents—was for the Nightbringers, the sadistic and virulent followers of Shar whose temple Marxibis and her friends had discovered near the small town of Melton.
Ioda spent her time in meditation, mostly in Gwaeron’s Grove, but also in other areas throughout the near North—hoping beyond hope to stumble upon the Giant’s Grove. Ioda had no such luck, but in her fiery communion with Hiatea, she was shown a path to the Lurkwood, and told to “trust the half-elf.” Ioda was not entirely certain what to make of this information, or which half-elf she was to trust.
Caravan Duty and a Pitstop to Check in on Old Friends
It’s early morning when Tolmara Hysstryn pounds on their door at the Six Windows Inn. They answer the door, and she motions for themto follow her. Sitting in the common room nursing an ale is Zindra Winterbow. The crew is sure they’ve never seen her awake this early; they’re also surprised that she’s drinking the watered-down swill that Tolmara serves without complaint. She jumps up to greet our heroes, her eyes clear and stone sober. The adventurers are unsure whether they’ve actually ever seen her sober.
“Well, friends, today’s the day. The Lionshields are looking to run a caravan up to Longsaddle, and unfortunately that prick Urlam over at the Travelers won’t take the job—something about Yartar—I don’t know, old rivalries die hard I guess. Not sure why I’m expected to give a shit, just ‘cause I’ve come to call this shit heap of a town my shit heap. Anyway, Narth asked me to round up some folks to guard the caravan, and lucky for you all I remembered you said you’d do it. Why you want to go to the Lurkwood, especially in the dead of winter, is beyond me. But hey, it’s your lives not mine.”
The Lionshields take some time to prepare the caravan, loading up all manner of supplies from their shop, the Lion’s Share. From provisions to armor and weapons and all kinds of gear, Berkkie can’t help but wonder if the Lionshields are planning on setting up a new shop in Longsaddle. Also, they all can’t help but feel like guarding a caravan such as this one might mean putting a giant target on their backs. Hopefully the hundred or so miles between Triboar and Longsaddle pass quickly.
On the second night, the crew stops in Melton to take advantage of the hospitality they’ve earned. They learn that Frida Greatheart was found guilty of her crimes, stripped of her title, and sentenced to three months imprisonment. The people of Melton decided to go relatively easy on her given the recent death of her husband and the fact that a magical artifact drove her mad. Zindra asks after Dawn Mistwalker, who she learns has left Melton.
It takes two more days to travel to Longsaddle, but thankfully the time passes uneventfully. In Longsaddle, the crew unloads the Lionshields’ wares and are warned by Zindra not to wander. “Longsaddle is kind of a … weird place,” she says. “I guess that’s what happens when your town is founded by a family of crazy fucking wizards and werewolves. Yikes.”
Other than getting a drink, the group does not wander. They spend the night at the Fuzzy Quarterstaff and set off the next morning for the Lurkwood.
The trip from Longsaddle to the Southernmost edge of the Lurkwood takes another two days, but all is quiet along the Long Road and our heroes do not encounter any trouble. On the third morning, Zindra leads them to Powood Camp, just off the Long Road and adjacent to the thick and gnarled forest that can only be their final destination. The sweet and savory aromas of breakfast hang in the air, and Lantro detect the unmistakable smells of bacon, fruit pies, and spiced drinks. Despite it being DeepWinter in the coldest part of Faerun, the day is clear and crisp and the heat of Powood’s many still-burning fires keep the air warm. There is what can only be described as a palpable sense of hope in the air, which surprises everyone given everything they’ve learned about the Lurkwood so far.
There are several dozen canvas tents pitched in a rough semi-circle around a large common area where you see the smoldering remains of a bonfire. The group locates the source of the delicious breakfast smells: a large tented pavilion about fifty feet ahead.
Zindra introduces her compatriots to Auciell Goodwind, the “unofficial mayor of Powood camp.” Auciell is an accomplished woodcutter who has her own crew of loggers. She tells the group about Powood camp and informs them of increasing incursions by the Black Raven and Thunderbeast tribes of barbarians. When Ioda asks, Auciell reveals that she has heard tell of the Giant’s Grove, also known as the Secret Grove, but cannot verifiy that it is anything but a tall tale. She warns against wandering too far into the Lurkwood for fear of barbarians, direwolves, and nasty goblinoids that call the nearest areas of the forest their home.
The group meet a few trappers, sex workers, and woodcutters around the camp. They mostly leanr of rumors about the Black Ravens, the Thunderbeasts, that Triboar is going belly-up, and that something strange and terrifying is going on with the giants of the Forgotten Realms. “There’s going to be a reckoning.” They also hear tell of a group known as the Hand of the Rising Sun who are going to “fix” the Sword Coast’s “drow problem.”
Despite the best advice of literally everyone they’ve talked to so far, the group decides to press forward into the Lurkwood.
Entering the Lurkwood
After some time, they come to a surprisingly large clearing in the wood, about 100 feet wide and 200 feet across. The air is still and everything feels unnaturally quiet. The serenity of the clearing is in the stark contrast to the thick bushes and trees that surround them, which look imposing, gnarled, and ominous. The few trees in the grove itself, however, stand tall and proud, their branches reaching ever-upward toward the sunlight. There is a small pond about one hundred feet directly ahead, and resting near the pond are two barbarians, dressed in black furs adorned with what appear to be raven feathers, although it is difficult to say for certain from this distance. Next to them, however, two giant ravels are drinking from the still pond.
Marxibis and Reberkkah approach stealthily, only to realize that the barbarians are in the throes of lovemaking. Marxibis confronts them and manages to scare them off.
Four paths lead out of the area in a semi-circle at the far end of the clearning. One slants downard, disappearing into the darkness of a gnarled thicket of trees. The second appears very long and winding, and it is impossible to see more than a few yareds down it. The next shoots straight forward, with many roots and stones creating obstacles. The last very obviously dead-ends about sixty feet into the woods.
The group choose the second path.
The Sleeping Giant
After many turns and bumps, and what feels like hours, the roughewn path slopes gently downward before evening out. For the first time in a long time, the path goes forward in a straight line. The path here seems more well-travelled as well, more even and with fewer stones and roots to trip on. Ahead, the path is blocked by a large object. As our heroes approach, they realize the object appears to be breathing.
They soon realize this is the only path forward, and it is blocked by a sleeping hill giant. Berkkie manages to climb over him without waking him. She walks further down the path. The roughewn path slopes gently downward before evening out. Ahead, the path —what??? She startles her friends as she comes up behind them, the path ahead blocked by a sleeping hill giant.
Finally they decide to wake him, as the path seems to be the only way forward. He is irritated that he’s been awoken, but generally good-natured. He explains that he has been placed under a spell and no longer knows his name. The path behind him leads to the Giant’s Grove, and the only way he can let someone past is if they are able to tell him his name.
They try tricking him, to no avail. He even lets them past at one point, only for them to end up right back where they started again. They attempt sneaking through the woods, only to be confronted with magical fog, or spider webs, or a dancing orb of light, or scary whispering, or an unnatural gust of wind, before being deposited back by the sleeping giant.
Finally Berkkie decides to sneak behind him and check his britches. The giant startles and sits on her, but they are eventually able to learn his real name, which was written on his underwear: Yngvhff.
The adventurers implore Yngvhff to join them, which he does, hoping to get a chance to “squish those robes” who hexed him.