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.
Over the last few weeks in and around Wehnimer's Landing, gnarled and glistening black roots have begun to spring up from the ground, breaking through the cobblestones of the town's roads, twisting up and around towers, even spreading out in some areas throughout the underground Burrow Way. Even most recently, black wood wights have appeared once in the Deadfall Forest, and some roots have even begun to attack people, sometimes even dragging them to the ground or even poisoning them.
Meanwhile, a Hendoran soldier was found to have gone missing the other night, when adventurers discovered his bloodied helm and tabard along a series of black roots underground. Each passing day, more and more reports of missing townspeople, farmers, etc have been sent to the town marshal to try to help locate them. It is now believed most, if not all of these incidents of missing people may be contributed to the black roots that seem to be quickly spreading.
The Town Council and Mayor Puptilian of Wehnimer's Landing strongly recommend all adventurers and townspeople alike use extreme caution when traveling near the known locations of the roots, and perhaps even consider moving in groups for extra safety. Councilman Pylasar is hard at work trying to devise a plan to help deal with the expanding roots once and for all, seeking knowledge and aid from the Archmage Pherantyr and allies outside of Wehnimer's Landing.
Getting to the Root of things...
Recently, Councilman Pylasar revealed a controversial plan in regards to the growth of the black roots in, under, and around Wehnimer's Landing. The plan has roots with the Palestra Blade, Aralyte, and was first theorized in her research and documents left behind after her sacrifice in the final battle against Althedeus. The plan, while not originally intended to be used on the shadowy maw of roots, but something very similiar, would involve carving the nexus of the roots out of Elanthia by magic, and transporting it into another valence. Once the remaining roots and trees are cut off from the nexus, it is speculated that they will wither and die.
The initial plan was met with a chorus of opinions, as so many variables existed with unknown consequences, such as the danger it would put Wehnimer's Landing in during the ritual, and even the consequences to the other valence the roots might be teleported too. As the roots continue to press on and out, quickly invading the underground and streets of Wehnimer's Landing, time is said to be very critical before the very town is consumed. Some alternatives have been suggested, such as trying to communicate with the denizens of the Wyrdeep for assistance, and word has been sent to try to reach Teuriz, the tehiri shaman who has aided the town in the past. Other alternatives have even been explored, such as trying to use the powerful magic and fire of the Wyrdeep wyrdling once in the possession of Pylasar. Upon the attempt, the wyrdling burned many present, before floating away to seek out her Master, who many presume is Grishom Stone. Despite her failure to help, the wyrdling's fire did not seem to harm the roots, or perhaps she did not want too.
Over the weekend, parchments were setup outside of Thrak's Inn and Moot Hall to allow adventurers and townspeople to sign up, in support or objection to such a risky plan. With no side truly being right or wrong, those who signed in support of the plan heavily outnumbered those in opposition. With that said, Councilman Pylasar has reluctantly began to prepare to move forward with what he calls "Plan P" and is seeking the aid of others in town to provide blue crystals charged by the beam upon Melgorehn's Reach, opaline dust, and crystalline chalk. Furthermore, Pylasar is asking for many to be available to help protect the town during the preperation and execution of the spell, and whatever may occur as a result. The Councilman went on to further say:
"This is no one's first choice, but at the time, it seems the only choice. I will encourage alternatives to still be sought out until the bitter end, but we must be prepared to act if none of those plans bear fruit. We haven't much time, so unless another way can be found, we will take action, and so late in the evening of the Day of the Huntress of this week is when that shall be! In the meantime, we must fight back. Get to the root of the problem, tee hee, and keep the spawns of this maw at bay, below ground and in the Deadfall! The less it grows and expands, the better our chances! Meanwhile, I will continue to pour over Aralyte's research, and try to determine if there are means to help control where this sentient maw is dropped, and how safely. I encourage others to seek out experts as well!"
Whatever course of action Pylasar and people take, will occur late evening this Friday, June 12th. You all know I get on late, so it will be long after the events of the day/night in Ta'Illistim for the Faendryl Symposium, so plenty of time for you to attend those events, AND still make it for the root business in Landing, incase anyone was worried.
-GM Kenstrom- Waylayer of Wehnimer's Landing Human Guru Giantmen Guru
Seeds of Evil
After much thought, preparation, planning and research, Councilman Pylasar has presented the final plan for dealing with the black roots and its shadowy maw just this morning. While the urgency to take action quickly limited the town’s options, it was never the safest or morally just idea to transport the heart of the roots into another world, perhaps endangering others, and risking consequences in the future.
After communication with Harrower Ersix, and a response this morning from the wild elf druid known as Briarstorm, the plan has been officially decided. Ersix will help oversee and execute the ritual with Pylasar, along with the aid and defense provided by adventurers willing to assist. If successful, the maw of the roots shall be carved out of the underground tunnel, teleported through a valence to return to Elanthia, but will be transported into the heart of the Deadfall forest. It is at this time, that the wild elf druid Briarstorm and his clan have offered their aid, using their own magic to create a powerful barrier around the entire Deadfall forest, sealing it up from the rest of Elanthia.
Initial concern was expressed about the plan, as there already exists a number of roots beneath the Deadfall, connecting to areas outside of town, and beneath town. The druids were confident their magic could sever the roots surrounding the Deadfall, but were unable to do the same beneath Wehnimer’s Landing, as the dangers to the area and town structures would have been too high. It is the hope of this plan, if successful, will contain the heart of the roots, yet cut if off from the rest of the network, which would result in the eventual rot of the trees and root that remain behind. Kept in check by the druid’s magic, the Deadfall would be closed off from the world, where the maw and surviving roots would eventually starve and wither, in theory.
In order for Pylasar’s plan to work, he will require four pieces of crystalline chalk, and numerous blue crystals charged at Melgorehn’s Reach, and plenty of opaline dust. In exchange for Harrower Ersix’s aid, the sorcerer will be given a sample of a spore from the maw and be allowed to release his experimental planar scrying device into the Deadfall as it is sealed up.
The undertaking of this ritual will begin late into the evening, this week, on the Day of the Huntress. Many adventurers will be asked to provide defense in the event the roots lash out or invaders reach through a valence during the spell. In addition, it is said a voluntary sacrifice of spirit will be needed by many to help charge the incantation.
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.