In the wake of the battle we made a disturbing discovery, all the pig-people that had been killed reverted to normal human forms once the hags were dead. They must have been more of the cursed victim type of minions than the willing participant kind. This in no way dissuaded Anflite and Filtan from scavenging anything of value from their corpses, which you kind of have to admire. Kind of. The twins were alternating consoling one another about their near siblingicide while I lay against a tree recovering – and by recovering I mean mostly bleeding and scratching myself raw. Martialla, looking a bit singed and banged up but mostly fine, came and stood before me appraisingly.
“You look like you got raked against a threshing board.”
“Maybe I was, there was a lot going on, I don’t remember it all.”
She glanced over at the half-orc sisters “Those two are a cool piece of business huh?”
“I think we would have died without them.”
“Nice hire. You have an eye for talent.”
“I’d like to have an eye for champagne. I haven’t had a Jack Frosty in forever. Half a dozen of those would really hit the spot right about now.”
“Is that the blue one? We always called that a Killer Frost or an Ice Queen.”
“That’s because you’re a peasant.”
“Jack Frosty sounds much more low class than Killer Frost.”
“Hmm, it really does. Give me a hand up, time to press on.”
“Are you sure you’re healthy enough for that sort of thing?”
“No, but since when does that matter?”
“I’ve got a bit of flayleaf if you want to smoke that before we go.”
“Now we’re talking.”
As we continued on our way we came upon a structure of sorts that was fashioned out of several trees bent at unusual angles with the branches woven together to form a round pyramid like skeleton over which was a covering of hides – many of which I’m pretty sure belonged to people formerly. Say this about hags, they stay on brand with their dreadfulness. There were several confused former pig-people milling about this treehouse/wigwam, they came at us in a rush babbling about how they had fallen under the hag’ spells and their tales of woe, but we told them there would be plenty of time for that later. They didn’t know much about the third sister, it seems as if their time as swine monsters was remembered like a dream – fragmented and nightmarish.
“Well, the story is that the dryad was able to survive because her lifeforce was tied to a cauldron, so lets’ look for a cauldron.”
The tree edifice had three full floors along with numerous little cubby holes and twisted storage shafts – some of which had fun hand-chopping mechanisms. Good thing I’ve known for a long time to keep my hands out of holes. In addition to the bric-a-brac you might expect to find in a hag’s lair – bones, polished skulls, piles of entails, clay pots full of teeth, little wicker dolls with human hair – there were some more inexplicable items. A gorgeous and almost life-sized painting for a red-haired lady archer, a row of toffee apples (surely safe to eat right?) three lyres of high quality, and a six foot square block of ice that was not melting in the slightest and was clear as the highest quality glass. On the uppermost level we did find a massive cauldron that had the temerity to form an angry metal face and charge at us with “teeth” of cast iron. Anflite and Filtan quickly figured out that attacking a massive hunk of metal with axes was folly but they had a pretty easy time turning it over – leaving its tiny cauldron legs waving in the air frantically like an upturned turtle.
I was about to say something when suddenly the entire tree structure rolled nauseatingly and one wall was ripped away by a terrific force. That force was a twisted many-branched leafless tree walking about on twisted dark roots that looked dead and cracked . The center of its trunk presented a long, deep scar that could look vaguely like a sideways mouth if you looked hard enough. It could also look like something else. Floating in the air besides the harsh looking tree was a woman reeking of rot and mold, skin the color of dead wood, hair tangled with beetles and decaying matter, her appearance made all the more awful by the hints and whispers of her former beauty – her face, now cruel and pitiless was as a smooth and lovely as only that of the fey folk can be. Her voice was cold and severe – seeming to come from many places at once.
“Why have you come here?”
“To ask you for a boon.”
“Why should I grant you anything pettifogger?”
“I’ve set you free from the hags.”
“Condemned me to death you mean.”
“I think you died a long time ago. Look what you’ve become. Take your chances when you have them, but when the time comes, let go. Nothing lasts forever. Look at you now, do you laugh, do you sing, do you dance?”
“I make people die.”
“Is that what you want?”
She didn’t answer for a long moment “It’s too bad that you killed my sisters, together we had the power to bring back your friend.”
“You know about that?”
“I know many things, the earth speaks to me still.”
“Opportunity wasted I suppose, but they didn’t seem like the helpful type anyway. What about you? Is there any goodness left in you? Will you help break the curse on my friend here? All it takes is a kiss. You remember a kiss? You feel something melt inside you but something become stronger as well. Part of you that was asleep comes awake, but it feels like it was always awake. Everything is transformed to something else, everything is magical – everything makes sense and nothing makes sense. It’s one of the best things in the world and the greatest part about it is that anyone can do it. It’s not just for kings and princesses and knights, not reserved for the brave or the mighty or the just – it’s for everyone.”
“I will grant you your boon for a price.”
“Pass. Counterproposal, do it for free. To remember how it feels. You were once a being of joy and light and living things, before you return to the earth remember what it was like. Remember who you are. Don’t pass on to the next life as you are now – a bitter thing full of spite. Don’t go into darkness, go to a far green land.”
It was again a long moment before she answered “Bring her to me quickly before I change my mind.”
Lathal came forward to the edge of the now wall-less side of the room and the twisted form of the dryad floated down as light as a leaf to stand before her. The simple woodcutter looked wildly apprehensive, as well she might standing before the fey monster – but the dryad reached out with her wickedly clawed hands and slipped them gently around the larger woman’s waist. Their lips brushed against one another gently, a little prelude, and then they kissed tenderly. It was as odd a pair as you’re ever likely to see kiss but there was something sweet about it. You know, for a murderous werewolf and a mostly dead wood spirit. I could swear that the “mouth” of the spikey tree twisted in anger as they continued to kiss more deeply.
After a moment the dryad, her flesh already growing darker and starting to split, stepped back into the “arms” of her tree and it lumbered away, cradling her like a babe. Drake rushed forward to his sister.
“Do you feel any different?
“I don’t feel it inside me anymore, but how can I be sure?”
I spun her around and slapped her hard across the face. “Did that make you mad?”
“Do you feel like turning into a wolf monsters and ripping my head off?”
“I don’t think so.”
Just to be sure I stomped on her foot and punched her in the boob – at which point we startled scuffling and had to be pulled apart. For a moment she got me in a headlock and really hurt my jaw. She should be more careful.
“I think we can call that a cure.”
Drake looked at me, his eyes wet with tears of delight “How can we ever thank you?”
“You can’t, but its fine. All in a day’s such and such and so on. Now help me clear out this place before Anflite and Filtan grab everything good.”
Hair regrowth progress : .024%
Curses – Marksman’s Malady, Unnerve Beasts, Melancholy
Funds: 8,676 gold
Inventory: Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Blue Dragoncloth Dress, severed hag head (2) Cauldron of Flying, Ring of Urban Grace, Gloves of Swimming and Climbing, +2 Chain Shirt, +1 Longsword, gold necklace with jade pendant, Feather Token (tree) 2, white squirrel fur slippers, +2 Fey Bane Bastard Sword, +1 Human Bane Dagger, +1 Spell Storing Longspear, Hand of the Mage
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo