The tunnel from the observatory was long, miles long, but eventually the young heroes and their dour companion emerged back at the surface…in the midst of the village ruins where the trio from the Academy went on their first adventure. Perhaps there was some sort of connection between the abandoned village with it’s burnt-out library and the Far Realms-infected observatory.
The stairwell into the cellar and the library both stood out amidst the overgrown ruins that characterized the rest of the clearing. The setting was almost identical to how they left it, although the patio before the library’s great doors were now lined on both sides by stone statues of cats, and lying in the midst of them, right before the doors, was an ornate box with a longbow and a longspear crossed over the lid.
While the young heroes were deliberating about what to do with the box (and griping about winding up at the ruins again), Medrash attempted to open the library doors, causing the sphinx to appear. The sphinx was excited to see the adventurers again, and gave a very animated account of how it had found all sorts of humanish things that it couldn’t use and that maybe they could use and so it gathered them all together and put them in the box and left it on the doorstep as a present and hoped they’d be back and oh so excited to see you again and hungry and presents and..and…and…
The box, upon investigation, contained a healing potion, 360 gp, and 300 sp, as well as the decapitated corpses of several small woodland animals (snacks, the sphinx explained).
Medrash continued to attempt to open the doors, earning the ire of the sphinx, who first asked him to stop…then told him to stop…then rounded on him with a supernatural roar, leaving him stunned and shaken. Medrash, at last, stopped messing with the door.
The adventurers left the ruined village and made their way through the woods back to the main path, and began to make their way back to New Haven to speak to the Professor. As they traveled, two whirling masses of crystal – one crimson and one emerald green – came racing across the countryside, shooting blasts of energy at each other. The crimson one screeched an oath at the emerald one, to which the emerald responded by vanishing, reappearing a short distance away, and blasting the crimson whirlwind into oblivion. the crystal shards that made up its form warped into a shape resembling an abberant fell taint, and then disintegrated into dust. Akta approached the crystalline warrior and spoke to him.
The new figure introduced himself as Dezasshi, a hunter after those who would seek to usurp the power of the Living Gate and allow the influence of the Far Realms to infiltrate this plane. Autumn recognized Dezasshi’s references to the Living Gate as the moon, and the shardmind confirmed some knowledge of the All-Father – the primal spirit that is said to have created the moon. Dezasshi claimed to carry out his crusade against the Far Realms as an agent – if not a worshiper – of the Raven Queen, thus earning Medrash’s respect and causing the dragonborn to swear fealty to this new companion. Now bearing an increasingly-complex web of friendships and alliances, the companions continued their journey to New Haven.
In New Haven, Professor Deepwood greeted the adventurers with his normal absent-minded enthusiasm, and listened intently as they recounted their recent adventures to him. He also let them know that he’d finally made some progress toward translating the mysterious tome the trio of students had brought him from the ruins. Closing the shades on his windows and locking the door, he opened up the ancient book and uttered 3 syllables from it in hushed tones. Those 3 syllables charged the air, making everything feel more present than it normally did. The Prssr. explained that this book was written, at least in part, in ancient [name of text (check game notes)], a language that, according to legend, was composed of pure Power, and predates even the Supernal tongue of the gods. The right syllables in the proper order said in the appropriate way are supposed to have the power to create or destroy or alter anything in creation. Legends tell that the greatest heroes from the fallen empires, and from the age that preceded them were sometimes gifted single syllables of ancient [name] as rewards for the greatest deeds.
Because of the unique nature of the language, and the scarcity of information about it, the Prssr. could make no more progress on the book without more resources. From long association with the sages of the College of Magic, he knows they have a secret library of ancient texts from the earliest days of Arkhosia and Bael Turath that have been collected over the course of generations. Some of those books may be of help in his endeavor…but they are a jealously guarded secret. Similarly, a huge portion of their collection was gleaned from ruins underneath the city, but the entrance was completely sealed by the Brotherhood, since it was these same subterranean ruins from which the Lord of the Black Legion awoke. Even knowing the challenges at hand, the young adventurers decided that they’d go to Elenath in search of some answers.
It was decided that the best way to Elenath would be to return to Cotswold-on-Deep River and follow the caravan routes back to the capital city. Before leaving, Akta bought Perrin a mount-trained St. Bernard to help him get his mind off his brother’s death, and with Heth’s corpse carefully preserved and wrapped for travel they made their way south to Cotswold.
A few miles from the city, they encountered a gnoll on the side of the road, wailing and lamenting in a brilliantly Old Testament-style manner – sackcloth, the gnashing of teeth, throwing ashes up in the air…the whole nine yards. Akta asked after this pitiful individual, and when it was revealed he was mourning the death of his twin brother, Perrin went down off the road to commiserate with him. After a brief exchange, the gnoll offered to take the adventurers back to the camp he had shared with his brother, and explain his plight to them. He (Jacque) and his brother, Piter, were huntmasters from the Makeltoh clan who had been sent by their clan to seek out new territories, as their traditional hunting ranges were being encroached upon and they did not have the strength to repulse their invaders. As they traveled north, they met and became antagonized by a “mad goblin holy man” who began to follow them and worked to find ways to curse their progress, Jacque explained. Some time ago while the brothers had gone in different directions to hunt, Piter was attacked and killed along with his entire hunting pack. He tracked his brother back to the road to Cotswold, to the very spot where he had been mourning, but was never able to recover the body. Jacque is convinced that the mad goblin orchestrated his brother’s death, and begged the young heroes for help in avenging his brother’s murder. Perrin, still grieving his own brother’s death, told what little he knew about Vrushnak and left Jacque with a gift of wine before the party left the gnoll’s camp.
In Cotswold-on-Deep River, Heth was finally laid to rest. The service was small, composed only of Perrin, his parents, and the party. As a vassal of the Raven Queen, Medrash performed the rites, and Heth’s body was interred in a plot near Mahari Square (named after Jaruel Mahari, a halfling adventurer and merchant who founded Cotswold) – a fitting burial for a young halfling who died after serving his community and in search of adventure.
The next day, the young adventurers contract with a caravan traveling the long road to Elenath; arranging for free passage in exchange for defending the caravan along the way. A few days out from Cotswold-on-Deep River, the caravan came across an unusual disturbance across the path, one that appeared to be a thin point in the Walls Between the Worlds, where the Feywilde was breaking through into this plane. A charismatic half-elf halted the caravan and explained that they were entering the realm of Gwyddeon Dana’an, the Ard Rhi (“high king”) of the elves, and that a tariff would be required to ensure safe passage through Gwyddeon’s lands. The young adventurers first tried to charm their way past the border guard but when that didn’t work, Akta – aided by Medrash, Dezasshi, and Mr. Bubbles – cowed him into submission with threats and intimidation. The border guard stepped back into the mirage-like aura, and faded from sight like a tiger in tall grass.
Later that same day, the caravan came to a bridge that had been occupied by some lizardmen and their pet crocodile. Their intentions were much more straightforward – they were less interested in politics or trade relations, and more about who would be their next meal! A brief but vicious battle left the croc and all the lizardmen but one dead in the water, and only the skink-like darter with a blowgun managed to escape the carnage. The defeated lizardmen were each carrying a non-magical spear and light shield, and the biggest of the trio – probably the de facto leader – was wearing an ornate necklace that, upon examination, turned out to be a +2 Amulet of Protection.
Triumphant, the party continued to lead the caravan onward.