Having cleansed the town of Laconia from its blight, the group tries to gather information from the surviving mage of the Raven Queen to figure out where to go next. They are interrupted, however, by an elven caravan pulling up, looking to deliver good to none other than Tane Kalani Hohepa. Talara, thinking quickly, signs for the goods and has the elves unload the crates, claiming she needs to inspect them for her ‘master’. Inside, she finds several bundles of herbs common to the Everwood, a few hams smoked in the traditional elven method, and a large container of silver amulets, identical to the ones so lately used in the blighting ritual.
The party confronts the elf, revealing the corrupt nature of Tane Kalani and asking after the amulets. The caravan manager is shocked, protesting that he knew nothing of Tane Kalani’s plan and actually being quite pleased to get a contract from the prestigious Hohepa family. The merchant tells the party, apologetically, that Tane Kalani was living in the elven town of Liu-he when he ordered the amulets, but asked for them to be delivered to Laconia. The party rests for the night in Laconia, then plans to head out the next day for Liu-he, following the trail of Tane Kalani.
The next morning, the party heads off across the rolling grasslands of Vertland, headed for the borders of the Everwood. The stillness of the crisp autumn evening is suddenly broken by the howls and yips of a pack of plains wolves. Cresting a rise, the party sees two figures being menaced by several wolves. They charge down the hill, scattering the wolves and saving the elven man and his young son. The father, Tama Kaleo Anakoni, insists that the party come to his village for dinner, in thanks of saving himself and his son. He promises a warm meal and safe bed, glancing up at the sky and saying it looks like snow. The party gratefully accepts his offer and heads to the small forest retreat in the forest on the Vertland side of the Everwood.
The forest retreat is small, five or so modest houses grouped around a central clearing. Racks of drying skins are stretched out around the houses as hunters prepare their fall harvest. The elves of the village greet the strangers pleasantly as they go about their tasks. Inside Tama Kaleo’s wife prepares a meal, generously welcoming the party to their home in broken Common. The party enjoys a plain but plentiful dinner, chatting about the small pleasentries of life. About halfway through the meal, the son dashes to the window. “Snow, snow!” he cries, still young enough to be entranced by the first snowfall of the season. Tama Kaleo nods his head, “The Lady of the Forest is shaking out her featherbed”
They all settle into their evening routines, Anakoni Maleo darning clothes by the fire, Tama Kaleo re-fletching arrows and the young Iokua Tama attempting to carve a stag from a piece of pine wood. The snow falls heavily, gently blanketing the forest… and everyone feels quite sleepy. Baern is the first to notice the stealthy feeling creep over him, and manages to shake it off. Everyone seems sluggish and unresponsive; Baern notices Anakoni nearly falling into the fire. Recognizing it as an enchantment, Baern calls upon the power of the goddess to protect the dwelling, carving protective runes into the corners of the room. The family and the party instantly snap out of their trance-like state. Peering out the window, the party can see mounds where the snow is piling over the victims that were caught outside. Concerned for the safety of the villagers, Gudrun is ready to rush out the door, but Alestair stops her from leaving the confines of the protective wards. Gudrun is still not ready to give up on the villagers and refuses to leave them to the snow’s fate. Luckily, Talara remembers that they’re still carrying ‘samples’ of the amulets that Tane Kalani had intended to blight towns with. She and Baern quickly inscribe the protective runes on them, making the amulets mobile wards. Each of the party grabs one and set out to move the villagers that may have fallen asleep in danger. As they are removing the last of the villagers from the howling snow, Alestair spots a set of footprints in the snow walk over to a villager, and then two depressed patches, as if someone were kneeling. He quickly calls the attention of the party to the apparently invisible figure, which goes sprinting off into the woods. Tama Kaleo promises to see his neighbors to safety and the party goes racing off into the woods.
The magical aura carried in the snow is full of dark black tentacles snaking around in the wind. The party follows the footsteps down a path until they disappear at the edge of a small pond, frozen over in the early winter storm. Talara, not stopping to think, charges out across the ice and disappears. Alestair sighs, “Like I didn’t see that coming,” steps out onto the ice and also disappears. At this point, Gudrun is starting to be frightened – equally suspicious of ponds that appear to vaporize those that step on it and nervous about being left behind in an enchanted snowstorm. Ilu and Kasake walk out onto the ice, also vanishing. Baern gives Gudrun a word of confidence, then also leaves her in the snow. Forced with being left behind, Gudrun holds her breath and steps onto the icy surface of the pond.
The world seems to spin upside down and Gudrun finds herself standing once again (right-side up) on a cavern floor. The cavern is fairly large and the air itself seems to be luminous; there are no light sources visible in the cave. At one end of the roughly circular room is a shallow pool of water. At the other, a tall waterfall is pouring from a ledge down a chasm that seems to go infinitely far down. Near the waterfall is an ancient pile of crumbled, rotting lumber. The first thing Gudrun notices about the room is how wrong it seems. The cave itself seems to be made of granite, yet the carving of the cave seems to be from natural water. Caves don’t work like that, at least not in any mountain Gudrun had visited. Ilu pokes around at the rotting lumber, soft and fragile enough that it falls into pieces when picked up and crumbles in his hands. He sorts through the pieces anyway, finding a few rusty nails and generally thinking that the wood was once a ladder, though too rotten now to do anything useful. Talara and Alestair are more concerned with the waterfall and the puddle. Alestair investigates the waterfall. The water is icy cold to the touch, and has a strong magical aura about it. When examining the aura, Alestair sees the water as deep blue daggers flying off the cliff and down the chasm. Meanwhile, Talara examines the water in the smaller, shallow pool. It’s warm to the touch, warmer, actually, than the cavern floor beneath it or the air around. Its magical aura glows a gentle amber, like a cup of mead. Talara catches some waterfall spray in a makeshift cup and examines it. When removed from the waterfall, the water seems to lose its magical aura. She tries dumping it into the still pool, noticing that pouring the icy water into the warm pool seems to have no affect on the overall temperature of the pool. Talara scoops some pool water up in her cup, noticing it still retains its aura. She cautiously takes a sip…
And immediately sinks through the floor. She grasps desperately at a ‘rock’ in the middle of the cavern which has somehow become a pond, catching hold. Pulling herself up onto it, the rest of the party looks over and sees Talara standing on top of the pool, her body magically transformed into water. Looking over at the waterfall, Talara notices that it has ceased flowing and now a jagged wall of stone provides a perfect ladder up into the next level of the cavern. She cautiously ‘swims’ through the floor of the cavern and teleports up to the top of the waterfall, where the current is gentle and only a mild trickle of water swells around her ankles. Noticing this, the rest of the party quaffs the magical water and makes their way up to the next level.
A shimmering wall of steam blocks their path onwards. To each side of the small chamber is a table set with several orbs. Ilu picks one up – it is an orb of some sort, slightly squishy like a balloon filled with a flour-water mixture. With it, Ilu is easily able to pass through the veil of steam. The others of the party follow suit and are encountered with a very odd room. The room is perfectly square, but covered with an inch or two of water sloshing about on the floor. Set into the floor of each room is a colored stone that seems to glow with an inner light. A hiss fills the room and two creatures of steam coalesce from the air. The party quickly springs into battle with the steam golems. Ilu leaps into action first, noticing that his crystal fills with a red light. Assuming that his glowing orb probably has something to do with the crystals on the floor, Ilu makes sure to stand firmly on the red crystal. Deciding to test Ilu’s theory, Aleistar stands on a crystal differing from his orb’s color and gets a moderate zap for his trouble. The party quickly dispenses of the golems, who each leave behind an orb, similar to what the party found on the tables outside, but covered in flames. Baern picks up the orbs – the fire doesn’t burn – and carries it to the far wall of the chamber where a wall of ice had blocked their path. He notices the two small niches for the orbs and slots them into place. The ice runs, melts, and disappears, leaving their path open.
A steep staircase leads up from the cavern, and they emerge into a strange forest clearing. The grasses lining the path shimmer with blues and pastel pinks; the trees are a mish-mash of strange, violent oranges and fuchsias. The clearing is an exact duplicate of the forest retreat they had been in a few hours ago, albeit with a strange palette shift. Standing at the far edge of the clearing is a giant woman’s figure, shaking something vigorously. Strewn about on the ground are the dead bodies of several eladrin, all with terrible burns. The party approaches the woman, who appears to be shaking a large featherbed. She is fretting terribly, worrying about how messy the place has become and insisting on her need to clean for someone’s return. As the party edges around to face her, they see her face has been replaced by a smooth porcelain mask. Talara’s heart sinks as she engages the Lady in conversation. She is obsessed with cleaning, normally talking in a frantic tone except when questioned about who is returning. Then her voice switches to a monotone, only stating that “It is his forest now. He is returning soon.” Talara seems unable to reason with her, or get her to acknowledge nearly anything the party says. Taking a chance, Talara convinces the giantess to kneel down, the better to inspect the feather mattress. The Lady does so, and Talara reaches and pulls off the mask, getting slightly shocked by electricity in the process.
That seems to snap the Lady of the Forest out of whatever trance she was in. She kneels and buries her face in her hands for a moment, then asks what happened. The party explains, as best they can, and ask her if she remembers what happened. She, unfortunately, does not. The group explains the existence of The Ghost and shows her the Mask of Sehanine. The Lady goes white and sinks to the ground. “That is my aunt’s face!” she cries out. “How did you get my aunt’s face?” The party is shocked and horrified at this revelation, and timidly shows the Lady the Mask of Melora they also have. The Lady is even more disturbed at this, claiming it to be the face of her mother. She says she hasn’t seen her mother, or any of her aunts or uncles since the day of the Catastrophe, where a flaming orb fell from the skies and through the ground into the other realm.
The Lady thanks the party for their help and tells them she will transport them back to their realm, as it is not meet for mortals to dally in her realm for too long. She thanks them and gives them a small token of her gratitude – a magical set of water armour – and whatever the eladrin had on them, as it is of no use to her. The party comments on the eladrin; she is slightly confused by their question, “They are my servants. They belong here. I suppose new ones will come.” In any case, she also mentions that she will close the portal to the Other Realm they came in by, and, in a flash, the party is again standing in the center of the forest retreat, amid the melting snow.