In the aftermath of the battle against the forest creatures, the party had little choice but to rest and try to regain their broken spell power and health. Luckily, the night held no surprises beyond a poor night’s sleep surrounded by fog, lights, brambles and creeping animals.
2 columns remained. The party set out towards the far eastern column. They found themselves in an increasingly sparse forest, surrounded by dark shapes that loomed out of the fog. The shapes were boulders; wrought into bizarre shapes by unknown hands, some seemed like faces with misshapen features, others were twisted into contorted, unnatural contours. As the heroes moved farther eastwards, the boulders became more and more prevalent until they form almost a maze to hamper the party’s progress. The trees disappeared entirely, the area dominated by stones, boulders, and gravel.
After 20 minutes of hiking, the heroes found themselves at the site of the column of light, shining from inside a 20-foot wide crater. Previous experience had given them a good idea of what to expect; the claiming of the orb would undoubtedly be followed by an attack of some sort. The heroes took precautions; Glithas summoned his Mage Armor, Roondar is Inertial Armor, and Bjorin his Barkskin. Torash cast Enlarge and Blade of Blood upon himself. The group approached the edge, with Roondar and Glithas hanging back to provide fire support. Bjorin tied a rope to himself and Torash, then climbed down into the crater. At the bottom, sitting on the gravelly ground was an orb of smooth, polished grey granite. Upon hefting it, Bjorin was visited by another vision; a shadowy form stood before a black bear which knelt to him. The form pressed a glowing crystal between its eyes and the bear roared in pain while it seared into its flesh. The animal began to grow, its teeth and claws to lengthen. Its eyes opened, now glowing bluish-white. The now-vicious corruption seemed to look directly at Bjorin and roar, baring teeth like daggers, when Bjorin snapped out of it. In the meantime, the shadowy corruption along his arm had grown to swallow his entire left arm and shoulder.
No monsters appeared as they had feared and Bjorin began climbing back out of the crater. As soon as he reached the top and began to right himself, however, the attack struck; earthen hands reached from the ground, seizing Yunaan’s ankles. The barbarian found himself dangling from the grip of an earth elemental, all dirt and sharp stone and glowing crystals. The creature flung him by his feet into one of the nearby boulders, but the lucky barbarian largely landed against his shield, absorbing much of the impact. Torash was less lucky, as a second elemental emerged from the side of a nearby boulder and struck, punching the cleric in the back of the head and cutting his skin with its hand while delivering massive trauma. The battle began, overshadowed by a rumbling sound from the southwest.
The heroes soon found, however, that the elementals could disappear and reappear into the stone. While they tried to retaliate, more elementals emerged, punching at Glithas and Roondar and rushing Bjorin. The fates seemed to be unkind to the party. Roondar unleashed an energy blast of cold but the elementals seemed barely affected. Torash attempted to connect with his warhammer to deal his enhanced damage, but seemed unable to land a proper blow. Glithas summoned a Flaming Sphere, but his target managed to sink back into the ground to dodge. Yunaan fared better, dodging an attack from a newly-emerged elemental while still lying against the boulder, then retaliating with a deep two-handed axe blow. Roondar followed up with a blast of fire, scorching Yunaan’s target as well as the elemental that Luthiana was successfully fending off farther to the north.
When an elemental retaliated against Roondar however, he found himself in trouble, and Yunaan answered by charging across the battlefield to deliver a strong blow to the attacking creature. Back to back, gnome and barbarian fought with psionics and axe to destroy one monster and severely wound another.
By this time however, the situation farther north was deteriorating. Glithas’ fire was having little effect and Torash seemed unable to land a blow. Bjorin found himself slowed by his shadowy infestation and was forced to fall back and summon a pair of dire badgers for aid. The fierce animals answered and flanked an elemental, but found themselves soon facing empty air as the the creature escaped underground, re-emerging to attack Torash. Yunaan, believing Roondar secure, executed a second charge to the north to take Torash’s attacker from behind and succeeded in wounding it, but at cost to himself as he left himself open to attack from an elemental stationed along the path that delivering a crushing smash. The situation became further complicated as the party realized the elementals had ranged attacks; they planted one fist into the ground and drew material from the earth, using it to project their other fist outwards.
A third elemental fell and for a time, it seemed as though the battle would end more swiftly than anticipated. Luthiana in particular displayed an unerring battle sense, her every attack connecting. The heroes had forgotten, however, the rumbling sound from the southwest. A 12-foot tall elemental erupted from the ground southwest of Torash, spraying earth in every direction that Bjorin and Torash managed to dodge. It immediately struck at the cleric, but he managed to lift his shield in time and dig his feet into the ground, absorbing the hit. By now, much of the party was wounded, but Torash found himself unable to fall back to heal or be healed as he was boxed in by elementals. Yunaan finally cleared one of the three remaining smaller elementals leaving one in the north that Glithas wore down with a series of magic missiles after a wounded Luthiana was forced to withdraw.
Bjorin, Torash, Glithas and Yunaan clustered in the middle of the battlefield to dispense and receive healing after the large elemental showed its power by dealing Torash a heavy blow. At this point, Roondar stepped up to help turn the tide, sacrificing some of his own health to convert it to psionic power and unleashing a huge bar of fire. It crashed into the large elemental, shaving off almost half of its health and carrying on to severely damage the last of the remaining smaller ones. He paid the price however as the vengeful elemental turned on him, projecting its right fist and knocking him into unconsciousness.
The opening, however, gave the rest of group time to reform. Glithas chipped away at the final small elemental while Yunaan stepped into melee range after a disastrous attack by Torash left his bloody weapon dropped onto the ground. Bjorin began to summon a dire wolf for help; the last badger had disappeared after having dispatched a small elemental. Yunaan, however, proved this unnecessary; stepping forward, he dealt a catastrophic blow to the large elemental, carving out a portion of its midsection and causing much of the rest of its now-unsupported bulk to collapse out onto the ground in a shower of rock and dust. When the wolf appeared, it found little to do beyond put the final touch on the victory while Bjorin gave the final small elemental a last strike to down it.
Once again, the party found itself victorious but drained, having teetered on the precipice of defeat. After reviving Roondar and expending their remaining spell power on healing, they faced an almost certain need to once again rest inside the haunted forest, before moving on to face what lay at the final column of light. Their only hint was a mantra Bjorin had remembered that all druids learn during their training, that seemed to correspond to the orbs’ elements…
My resolve is as firm as the stone,
My soul as pure as the water shone,
My patience is as endless as the oak’s,
Until the fires of my rage are stoked.