The party progressed southwards through the forest, following the stream deeper into the valley. It gradually carved a deeper trough into the landscape and became wider and deeper, while simultaneously the air became colder; plunging to freezing temperatures. After a 20 minute trek, the group came upon a pool that the stream stemmed from, fed by a six-foot waterfall that tumbled into it from another stream higher up a brief incline. In the center of the pool shone a bright underwater light from which the column of light came from. However, the party decided they were too drained to investigate immediately. Instead, they used the terrain of the waterfall’s cliff to provide shelter for a cold and fitful night’s rest overlooking the mysterious glow.
Recovered, they pondered their options at the pool’s edge, testing its depth and temperature, probing it for magic and finding apparently little but an ordinary, if oddly cold, body of water. Finally, Bjorin decided to cut to the chase; using druidic magic to fortify himself against the elements, he stripped down and plunged into the waist-high pool. The source of the light, he found, was a perfectly round, smooth, orb of ice that he was able to easily lift out of the water. As soon as he did however, six points of water around him rose to form humanoid shapes. Fonts of water were where their legs should be, and their torsos seemed to be made of jagged, crystalline ice. Their heads were as visored helmets, but water continually leaked out from between the slits. Bjorin was surrounded.
Roondar, thinking quickly, used his psionic powers to rip Bjorin out of the water, causing him to lend ungently on the slope while the rest of the party assumed positions on the southeastern bank of the pool. Four of the icy knights charged in, while two others demonstrated other abilities; one projected an ice lance from his oversized fist, firing it towards the shore, while another disappeared back into the water without a trace. Torash summoned a whirlwind of blades around himself as the creatures closed in, while Glithas summoned a ball of flame and discovered the knights melted well. Bjorin, naked and weaponless, summoned a flaming blade, while Roondar caused a concussive blast of force to ripple through two of the attackers closing in on Luthiana.
A fierce melee ensued. Torash, after bathing his blade in holy blood, found himself at a loss to connect with his warhammer, but found his whirlwind of blades made good progress at chipping away at the monster’s icy armor and his own defensive skills to be top notch. Yunaan did heavy damage, lodging his axe into the head of one of the knights. Glithas’ flaming sphere melted one of the knights well before he fled back into the pool, but both he and Roondar found themselves on the receiving end of the potent ice lances fired by the monsters from the pool’s center. Roondar was unable to concentrate well and expended large amounts of psychic power, but unfortunately to little effect.
Luckily, the combined melee powers of Yunaan, Luthiana, Bjorin, and Torash, along with Glithas’ sphere were able to inflict casualties on the ice knights sufficient to cause the monsters to fall back into the pool, where they began to fire their icy projectiles in earnest. The party’s ranged skills were weakened by their expenditure of power and so Bjorin stepped in to summon a pair of crocodiles beneath the creatures. The crocodiles proved surprisingly effective; they quickly crushed the armor of one enemy and dragged it into the pool.
With their numbers dwindling, the knights made one last desperate attempt to recover the orb that now was in Roondar’s possession. Roondar found himself being charged by an enemy that delivering a crushing blow, knocking him back against a tree and unconscious. When the last of the icy knights moved to help his companion, the crocodiles interceded and dragged it to its death, and the party was able to destroy the final monster and revive Roondar.
After healing their wounds, the party set off to the next column of light, trekking away from the stream and deeper into the woods. The trees grew close and dark, the fog heavier, and twinkling blue-white lights seemed to surround them. Animal noises echoed through the forest and the nerves of the party began to wear thin. The lights pressed closer, and each party member began to hear unpleasant sounds from their past: Glithas the sound of fire and collapsing timber, Roondar the sound of Mae’s screams and Marcus’ sobs, Torash the death rattle of his sparring partner, and Yunaan the sound of his grandfather bitterly declaring him khun. Bjorin heard a frantic whisper inside his head: “Oh Andel, forgive me, I only sought to protect my lands and now it has me…now it has me and it won’t let me go…release me from this nightmare! RELEASE ME FROM THIS NIGHTMARE!” The final part Bjorin himself voices as well, and when he returned, shaken, to reality, he found a black shadow encompassing the fingers of his left hand.
With no answers and little else to do, the group soldiered on. This time they found an orb of oak inside the hollow of a tree surrounded by thorny bushes. Roondar tried to use his psionics to pull it free but it seemed stuck fast. Glithas masterfully crept in to retrieve it, but had no better luck. Finally, believing that perhaps Bjorin was the only one who could, the party sent him in. Sure enough, the druid picked it up easily, but was struck with a vision. A shadowy figure infected the forest and its animals with shards of crystal, driving its denizens mad. When Bjorin emerged from the vision, the shadow had crept up his left arm to his elbow. As he staggered back, Bjorin and Yunaan both noticed the foliage on the forest floor begin to move and then explode into three shapes; two large, humanoid plants with thick intertwined vines for arms, and an immense third monster with twin, thorny tenacles and a huge mouth of sharpened wooden stakes.
The creatures lumbered forward, giving the party time to deploy and for Bjorin to place a ward of protection against plants on Yunaan. Yunaan surged forward to engage the largest creature and found himself locked against a fierce opponent who quickly depleted his ward. Bjorin joined him in melee, after summoning a flaming sphere as it became evident that the creature would not go down easily. Glithas also summoned a flaming sphere to burn the creature into submission. The creature’s wounds seemed to close on their own, however, blunting the assault. The slow approach of the other two creatures gave the party time to focus their abilities on the largest, hitting with weapon, psionic fire, spiritual weapons and magic before the approach of the humanoid plants forced them to turn their attention to the flanks.
The huge creature dealt Yunaan a savage bite, crushing his protective ward and lifting the barbarian in his jaws. Yunaan was able to do little but rake his shield against the monster’s mouth before it swallowed him, and Yunaan found himself in the monster’s muddy, dark, acidic stomach. Bjorin summoned reinforcements to aid him; a trio of enraged dire badgers. Two quickly set upon the monster, while a third aided Luthiana in holding the western flank against one of its smaller companions. The badgers tore through the body of the huge creature, felling it onto its side, where its death groan released a haggard and enraged barbarian who wasted no time in rejoining the fight on the eastern flank. By this time, Torash, who had been holding the east, had been worn down by his opponent. It nearly delivered a death blow when it wrapped its vines around his neck and lifted him above the ground, but the cleric managed to break free, barely alive.
Bjorin braved a dangerous approach through the center of the fight, dodging attacks from both monsters to heal Torash. Meanwhile, Glithas and Roondar, their powers expended, were reduced to bow attacks from the rear of the party. Bjorin also found his magic nearing its end. Luckily, the dire badgers proved incredibly aggressive and damaging. They inflicted sufficient damage on the western monster to bring it down, despite suffering the loss of one of their number, then joined Torash and Yunaan in the east. However, it was not soon enough to save the pair. Yunaan fell unconscious from a blow from one of the creature’s tough vine arms, and Torash followed after inflicting a hammer blow infused with holy blood. The fight seemed to balance on the knife’s end before additional damage from the badgers, Bjorin, Glithas, and Roondar brought down the final creature.
Bjorin used the last of his power to revive Torash and the party did their best to recover their lost vitality. Now, standing over the bodies of the embodiments of corrupted nature, with Bjorin increasingly consumed by shadow, the party finds itself drained of power and with two columns left to investigate…