Wherein the heroes hire a guide to the Darkwoods and come upon a witch’s shack
It’s late in the evening before Broken and Frog stopped their rituals. Broken completed his repairs on the Stone Man. Meander tried to talk the group into going ahead to the forest that evening, but wisely, the group decided to visit with Laurel in the morning before searching out the first two herbs. The group passed several loggers coming in for the night on the way back to the Sitting Duck. The party ordered some gruel and picked a spot in the common room floor for the night.
They were up early to head out to Roots and Remedies. There were not many up and about at that hour, and were able to get in to speak to Laurel right away. Frog asked Laurel what she knew about an old lady in the woods. Laurel told the party about ShadeMoss, a mean old witch from the forest. She doesn’t trade in gold, she trades in things like “sight”. Laurel doesn’t go to the woods, so she doesn’t know where ShadeMoss lived, but no one has seen her for awhile. Laurel tells the party of ToughBark, a woodsman hunter who works for the lumber consortium. Last she knew, he worked the lumber camp far out past the docks. The lumber consortium use him for the tough places that require more independent like folk. Frog also inquires about what herbs Laurel might buy. He cuts a deal, and Laurel describes three herbs that can be found in the forest.
The party started to make way out of town. As they got near the gates, Meander stopped as two guys in robes trimmed in rust pass by. He turned white as a sheet as he watched them walk away. They passed on by without any seeming recognition. Frog and Broken asked Meander if he was alright. He downplayed the situation and continued on to the Stone Man.
The party started the long walk to the far lumber camp. Once they reached the forest, Frog gathered ten seeds for the ten lumberjacks seen and performs well his tree planting ritual. The party passes up Tender’s Halfway House and continues on to the far camp. As they approached the farthest lumber camp, Broken tried to decide what to do with the stone man. He had him go off to the east and lay down in the tall grass beyond sight.
The lumber camp was a group of five buildings and scarred the edge of the forest. Two guys walked up to meet the party as they walked towards the camp. They quickly told the group to leave, the lumber camp was no place for civilians. The party asked to see ToughBark. The two guys reemphasized that the party needs to leave now. Frog went up and growled something at them in a low voice. The two looked shocked, and then pointed off to the woods, in the direction of some activity at the edge of the woods.
The party moved off towards the edge of the woods. A small group of guys were working there. They stopped working as the party approached. Frog asked for ToughBark and plainly asked for a woodland guide to the witch’s house. ToughBark wanted to know why the group wanted to go there. Once they mentioned a possible cure, ToughBark put down his work and headed to one of the buildings in the camp. The party followed.
In the building, ToughBark talked to one of the leaders at the camp, “Wool”. ToughBark told him he was leading this group through the woods to help find a cure for the Black Scour Taint. Wool was not concerned with cures for city problems, but ToughBark said that his nephew is sick, and he was going whether or not Wool objects.
Broken asked for a few minutes before they left, and went off in the distance yelling for the Stone Man. He finally worked his way very close before the Stone Man responded. Broken led him back to the group along the edge of the woods to hide him. ToughBark asked if the Stone Man is any danger, and once consoled, proceeded north into the forest.
They walked for awhile. The group spotted a weird crazy bird making a loud buzzing sound. It was about the size of a cat. After looking at it for a bit, they realized it was a mosquito. It flew down onto ToughBark, but he shooed it away. He advised the party to listen for the buzzing sounds. They could sneak up on you and drain you dry.
After more walking through the woods, the party came across a tree with bright multicolor paint smeared all over the trunk. The paint had a metallic sheen. Up in the tree were many crazy multicolored insects pinned to the tree with wooden spikes. They had been there for awhile. The color was likely their blood. ToughBark told the party that the creatures were probably fairies, and they were also cat-sized. He had heard a recent story of fairy blood turning lead to gold. It looks like someone tried it out.
Even more time walking through the woods, ToughBark came across “the track” he was looking for. It could barely be called a trail. He turned and led the party in a northwest direction. They had been in the forest about five hours by now.
A short while later, they came to a rocky area of the forest. Light shown from the underside of some of the rocks, as if there was fire hidden underneath the stones. The party picked up some of these rocks, but there was no fire. The orange light came from the mold growing on the rocks. Frog gathered some glow mold for later study. Meander managed to kill quite a bit of mold trying to get a glowing stick.
After even more walking, they came upon ShadeMoss’ Shack. It was in the center of a perfectly circular glade. The trees at the edge twisted away from the shack. The shack itself was covered with bones and fetishes. The yard had many fetishes in the shape of men and animals. ToughBark stopped and stayed back in the “safety” of the forest.
Frog examined the trees. They looked like they grew away from something, as if they were repelled by something in the glade, but frozen, unable to retreat by their roots locked in the earth.
The moldering door had rotted off the hinges. The party knocked but no one answered. Meander ripped the door out of the way and stepped inside. All manner of stuff was inside. The walls were lined with racks of bones, herbs and body parts. At the far side of the shack was a decrepit old dead lady, stuffed with herbs and covered with mold sitting next to the fireplace. Next to her was a large 5 foot tall cauldron.
The party started to look around the shack. Broken moved over to the left side of the shack, to investigate a chest. As he started to examine the chest, the cauldron skittered over to him and attempted to bit him. Broken dodged out of the way. Frog got out his drums and started chanting and playing a wicked beat, perfectly suited for battle. The party felt bolstered by his efforts. Meander ran over and grabbed the cauldron to pull it away from Broken. The cauldron twisted in his arms and tore into his chest, leaving a gaping wound.
Frog started another chant, while still keeping up the drum beat. Meander threw the cauldron at the wall and it scattered racks of bones and trinkets. Broken picked himself up while Frog started another chant, healing Meander of some of the pain of the bite. Having nothing to attack a large metal object with, Meander moved over to grab a log from beside the fireplace. Broken yelled for the Stone Man to attack and began casting a spell at a barrel near the cauldron.
The Stone Man came crashing into the room as the cauldron rushed back over to Broken. Frog stopped his drumming and peered carefully at the cauldron. He could tell the cauldron was possessed with an unnatural spirit, much like the spirit of the Stone Man. Meander ran back over to the cauldron and hit it really hard with the log, denting the side. Broken finished animating the barrel and it smashed itself against the cauldron to no avail. The Stone man reached the cauldron, but not in time to stop it from turning to Meander and tearing a gash in his stomach. Meander fell and passed out, dying.
Frog unleashed the full power of his faith upon Meander, pushing himself almost beyond his limits. His healing magic managed to bring Meander back conscious and moving again. After finishing his magic, Frog yelled for everyone to retreat, and ran from the shack. Meander stood and steaded himself for a moment, the followed him out. Broken followed the two to the door. The barrel, temporarily released from the distracted Broken, attacked the stone man, but he shrugged it off. The stone man readied his giant sword and swung it down at the cauldron, but it skittered away.
Frog kept running and as he neared ToughBark, they both ran into the woods. Meander ran for one of the trees at the edge of the glade, and began trying to climb. Broken refocused his attention, and while retreating, kept his minions focused on the cauldron. The barrel kept attacking the cauldron, but the wooden planks bounced harmlessly off the cauldron’s metal sides. The Stone Man followed the cauldron through the shack, slashing at the cauldron as it went.
As the cauldron and the Stone Man went outside, the Stone Man finally slashed open the cauldron. The cauldron twisted around to bite the Stone Man, but it doesn’t pierce the rock. The Stone Man slashed again and again at the cauldron, while the cauldron tried in vain to injure the Stone Man until the cauldron finally stopped moving.
Witness to the end of the fight, Meander called to the group from a tree nearby. Broken, Frog and ToughBark came to see the remains of the cauldron. Now that the guardian of the hut was dealt with, the party investigated the contents of the hut. They find rat tail, statuettes, rare stones, rare herbs, a pouch containing special salts and a mysterious shrunken head, which supposedly still has the owners soul intact.