Back through the portal, into the monastery grounds, princess Lilian and her entourage discover the purpose of the magical map and quill she retrieved from Claret’s package at the beginning of our adventure. The scroll is indeed a map of the Fae world, and the quill is enchanted to make updates of the ever-changing landscape of this magically rich world.
The heroes make preparations for the next journey in their quest: they plan to use the secret magical ways of the Fae to reach castle Windswept in short time. Pika uses a secret and painful monk technique to heal Jura‘s wrist wound, while Sheeba, on the wings of the blessed crane, scouts the monastery grounds to assess the destruction caused by the Djinn’s struggle: There is plenty structural damage, but the monks will rebuild. Brother Humm-Chu, the great Pika, wishes them safe travels as they step once again through the portal and into the Fae.
Such a land of marvel and misery, of wonder and woe! Lilian carefully studies the map updates implemented by the magical quill, and by putting together the deciphering skills of Jura and the geographic knowledge of Claret they are able to assess their location as well as four potential exits to the real world that would lead them close to Windswept, all FOUR of them accessible by portals 1-2 marching days afar:
—> the Foggy Marches: An area of fertile swamplands repurposed in extensive rice plantations. The Lotus Order has a secret base of operations there.
—> the Miller’s Crossroad: A natural hub of the road network within the Blossom Kingdom. The Hedra company headquarters are located there.
—> the Rialto Harbor: a small seaside city famous for his manufacture and public festivities. Allouette’s rich family lives there.
—> the Berona Range: a reach of highland plains, known for its vast pastures and tasty cheese. Also houses the hut of the White Witch, a woman of legendary wisdom; old acquaintance of Sheeba and the druids.
While deciding about their destination, Lilian and her team scout the ruins of Pszczna, abandoned fae town, and find recent signs of life. Claret spots a mechanical trap for small game, probably human made: Sheeba picks up the scent of the human trapmaker, but as she track the scent, she picks a wrong turn and leads the party into a heavily corrupted area.
This round square, historically built around a huge crystalline formation, is now half drenched in the dark goo oozing out of the tainted shards of the crystal itself. The black jelly boils and gurgles, awaken by the presence of unaware creatures, until a dark, gooey, Fell creature, lumbers out of the black pool. This ominous semisolid mass, shaped like a black “Michelin man”, with fangs and a spoon-shaped antenna-like appendage upon its head, surprises the adventurers and unleashes a mental attack upon them.
Only Sheeba seems to be able to shake off the phantasm, so she attempts to shapeshift to aggress the monster. Only, something different happens this time. As she gathers the (unstable) natural magical energies from the environment, a new, exciting, vivid source of magic permeates her essence. She lets this new magic source into her and as she changes shape, she realizes that she polymorphed into a fae animal creature: a Blink Dog. She blinks behind the Fell creatures and tears one of its feet away with her fangs, but the gooey mound is simply annoyed by her. It transforms into a huge mouth and envelops Sheeba inside its body.
In the meanwhile Jura is at a party full of noble guests, when he sees his old tutor Giovanni, a wide gash open on his face, boiling pustules opening on his skin. “How could you let me die?” he asks Jura, getting a hold on him while the poison slowly rots his flesh. But Jura is not distressed by this sight. He splashes his wine chalice in Giovanni’s face and twists away from his grab. At the same time, he snaps out of the phantasm and witnesses the creature’s attack on Sheeba, while Lilian and Claret are still stunned under the mental assault of the fell beast. He decides to help Lilian by having her smell a strong perfume borrowed from Alouette. In turns, Lilian, helps Claret by having her smell a pot of smelling salts.
Having regained their resolve, the adventurers ready their counterattack. Sheeba blinks out of the creature, on top of its head to tear the nasty antenna away. The creature thrashes violently, but he is slow and clumsy, and the group repositions itself on the offensive. Lilian distracts the creature, allowing Claret to have a clear strike at its heart… or better, its core, a hard nucleus inside the creature’s chest which Claret pierces true with her spear, and Lilian with a crossbow bolt. The fell creature is wounded and weakened, it changes shape into a black centipede, but once again, the adventurers are prepared. While Jura stuffs a bucket upon the head of the worm, the girls, blades unsheathed, chop it in several sections, until it stops moving and it melts onto the cobblestones.
Claret’s mind is shaken from the encounter, but the group decides to press on, and find the few surviving inhabitants of this city in ruins. Sheeba leads them to a house which looks indeed inhabited. Voices come from the inside, until a human, with long mustache, wearing a poncho and a bandanna wrapped around his head, walks out of the front door and is promptly blocked by Jura. In that moment, Claret recognizes hi: he is Albrek, a courier from the Hedra company gone missing months ago. She asks Jura to release him, while a second creature, a small humanoid, rushes out of the building attracted by the commotion. This tiny fellow, with a green face with rabbit teeth, bearing large ears and nose, and wearing a garden suit and yellow rubber boots, is unmistakingly a gnome. He introduces himself as Miroslav, and sounds grumpy until princess Lilian proposes to treat everyone to a fair meal. This seems to cheer-up both NPCs and they sit down for a plentiful dinner.
There, they learn that Albrek has been stuck in the Fae world for weeks, after delivering a package to this very address. They spot, onto an end-table within Miroslav’s house, a small purple crystal which is untouched by the corruption, pulsating of life, beautiful. Moreover, as soon as they start eating, a cute fluffy creature bounces out from its hiding.
This furry mascot, with big rabbit ears covered in curly fur, watches the characters with huge violet shy and playful eyes. It bounces around with its round-shaped body sustained by three short limbs. He wags a heart-shaped long tail and bears proudly two huge hooked horns at the sides of its head. “Pluszaczek” he chirps happily when the princess pets him… yea, that’s his name.
Claret is evidently disturbed by such amount of condensed cuteness, but nevertheless she joins the other people at the table, and they enjoy a nice dinner together. Lots of stories are to be told…