The Roots of All Evil
The Roots of All Evil was a short storyline run by GM Kenstrom that took place in the summer of 2015, a post-vignette off of Cross Into Shadows to tie up some of the loose ends regarding the black blood trees sticking around post-storyline.
Not long after Althedeus' unraveling, glistening black roots began to appear around and outside of Wehnimer's Landing, as well as down through Burrow Way, eventually moving toward Moot Hall. Accompanied by black wood wights, these roots -- ostensibly black blood tree roots -- were attacking with more vigor than had previously been seen. They were driven away, but then they were spotted in the Deadfall, which had parted open again, and cut through there as well. Additionally, a collapsed hole in the earth was soon found, with a bloodstained helm and tabard in it. The hole connected to Burrow Way, and when the articles were sung to, they revealed the story of a Hendoran knight entombed in a mass of black roots, his skin flayed and bloody, as he was dragged through a tunnel and into darkness.
Following these initial findings, reports continued to pour in regarding missing townspeople. Roots were also attacking adventurers, often dragging them to the ground, and at times poisoning them.
Pylasar arrived with a tiny black root and asked Dergoatean to scrye it, leading to the discovery of roots overrunning Lich's Landing. There, they fed from cocooned corpses -- town residents that they had kidnapped. The roots were centralized in a thick nest holding the heart of the maw.
Initially, Pylasar hoped to use Grishom Stone's ghostfire wyrdling from Wyrdeep to siphon off ghostfire as a weapon. However, when Pylasar brought the ghostfire whyrdling to town to ask for help with the roots, after some time, she said she had spoken to her Master, then lit everyone in the area on fire and flitted away; the answer to that request was clearly 'no'.
The Deadfall started to teem with wights and similar spirits, the influence of the roots growing, and yet no one had been able to directly attempt to destroy the maw. Pylasar had the brilliant (insane?) idea of using a pylon to blow a hole into the ground that lead down to Lich's Landing. Pathway to the underground made, adventurers soon found that the nest and heart of the maw was located across a hidden bridge in Banshee Tower. During this foray into Lich's Landing, Corpse Row and Banshee Tower were all that were accessible, with the remainder of Lich's Landing still covered in rubble. Of significance, the maw was not just the source of the rapidly spreading black blood trees and blood-sucking roots but was also releasing spores. Attempts to interact with the maw only left one with a handful of slime (later indicated to be extraplanar in origin). Adventurers were encouraged to help cull the creatures in Lich's Landing, which ranged from undead along Corpse Row to specters and roots in the tower to dark tree spirits and roots near the maw. The potential for the sky to eventually be covered in a "sea of spores" also existed, inciting a need to find a solution to the roots sooner than later.
Following the discovery of the maw, a nighthawk arrived from the Wyrdeep, warning of an impending attack on Wehnimer's Landing, an attack which soon came in the form of spiders, shaman, and druids.
Pylasar shared that he had studied the Palestra Blade Aralyte's work, and that he thought he knew a way to carving the maw out of Elanthia by magic, then removing it from the valence and placing it in another, which would effectively cut off the lifeblood/shadow of the roots and trees and lead to their withering death. This initial plan, dubbed "Operation P", would have required the use of blue crystals charged on Melgorhen's Reach, opaline dust, crystalline chalk, and the spirit of volunteers. There was a great deal of disagreement regarding moving forward with this plan, much of it revolving around the irresponsibility of dumping their problem onto someone else, which could endanger said plane and/or enrage beings from said plane and ultimately lead to further problems for Elanthia. When Pylasar took votes for whether or not to move forward with his plan, there was far more support than opposition for Operation P. Pylasar then asked for help collecting the necessary items, as well as varied assistance during the preparation and execution of the spell.
Attacks continued to plague the town, with roots, dark tree spirits, and spores attacking. Eggs that had been hanging out in the Wyrdeep hatched, flooding the battle with arachnids. Desperate times!
Several adjustments to the plan were soon made. First, Lady Lylia Rashere sought out and spoke with Harrower Ersix, of the Extrachthonic Cartographers' Guild, who agreed to oversee the planar shift aspect of the plan. In return, the Harrower would be given a spore sample from the maw, as well as the opportunity to monitor the interior of the Deadfall following its sealing via use of an experimental planar scrying device. Second, the final destination of the maw was adjusted from an unknown valence to, after travel through another valence, back to Elanthia -- in the heart of the Deadfall. Once in the Deadfall, Briarstorm and his clan of wild elf druids of Wyrdeep would use their magic to create a barrier around the entirety of the Deadfall to seal it closed. Concerns about the large number of roots beneath the Deadfall that connected to town were noted, but the hope was that the Deadfall's sealing would eventually starve not only those roots but also the maw itself.
On the eve of the plan's execution, town was inevitably under heavy attack, and many adventurers stayed above ground to help with defenses there. Another group of adventurers traveled down to the maw to assist Pylasar and Ersix with their efforts. During the ritual to transport the maw through another valence, the rift that was opened shifted through several valences before stabilizing at the Shadow Realm (of Althedeus).
Valence 1 (Grik'tyr): Through the gash of energy appears a vast expanse of endless plains, with boulders and slopes of scree. Shallow canyons cut along the ground, darkness swirling in their small depths. The sky appears like a rolling sea of grey. A great host of squat demons soar through the air, their broad leathery wings carrying them off into the distance.
Valence 2 (Elemental Confluence): Through the gash of energy appears a sky that is aglow from the heat and light from a giant raging inferno that rises above the peaks of a rocky mountain range, reminiscent of a sunset, albeit an eerie and unnatural one. The fiery radiance throws heavy shadows across the craggy hills and rutted ground. The enormous fire seems to be slowly expanding.
Valence 3 (a valence populated by the Ithzir): Through the gash of energy appears a strange obsidian pyramid huge in size, surrounded by a lush forest with thick canopies that throw the area in a constant state of shadows. Forming a half-circle before the base of the large temple are a number of slender hooded figures, their bodies turned away from you, but the backs of their garments each emblazoned with a twelve-pointed gold star.
Valence 4 (Kezmon Isle (Elanthia)): Through the gash of energy appears a wide island surrounded by endless stretches of dark blue water. High atop a hill is a stone keep overlooking a wide swathe of buildings, homes, and a series of docks. The faint image of banners flap on top of the keep, their crest or symbol indiscernible. Humanoid figures, too far to capture great detail, move about the buildings like tiny ants.
Valence 5 (Althedeus' Shadow Realm): Monstrous forms rise from ground, each a parody of reality. Blackened skeletal trees sink fingerbone roots into the ground and are topped with leaves of dried skin, while broken statues stand aside, the stone from which they are constructed crumbling away to reveal corded and bleeding muscle beneath. Even the wind is a mockery, carrying whispers and voices that both taunt and plead with wordless cries.
Of note, shadows lifted off the skin of various persons when this stabilization occurred, and, additionally, Aralyte's soulstone fell out of the rift. The maw was "levitated through the rift, and then threaded through another rift to the Deadfall". Following this, the area where the heart of the maw had been carved out of and the surrounding ceiling collapsed, not only trapping adventurers but also further burying Lich's Landing. Adventurers were forced to dig their way out of the rubble to arrive back nearer to the surface -- but were unable to return to the ruined town of undead; the way to Lich's Landing was effectively barred to the common adventurer.
When the maw arrived in the Deadfall, adventurers there helped the druids with ensuring it was fully contained within the Deadfall, which was soon sealed up, but not before Ersix's scrying device was slipped within.
As hypothesized, the roots around town shriveled up and withered away, and the black blood trees soon faded from visible sight. The orchard in Moot Hall was renovated and replanted with traditional apple trees, effectively removing even the easy reminder of the danger the black blood trees had posed.