War of the Burning Sky Session 8

Though magic protected our skin against burn, we could still feel the intense, withering heat carried in terrible blasts from the trees, and we smelled the acrid smoke as we entered and it enveloped us, arms of black and orange embracing us all.

The thick banks of smoke meant that we often couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in front of us, but the fierce, dry wind often blew these banks away. Powered by backdrafts and dramatic valley winds, the gusts snatched at loose pieces of clothing. During the lulls in the wind, as the massive lungs of the forest took breath, fingers of flame reached out from the smoldering undergrowth, pawing and caressing the hems of clothing and the ropes and backpacks, always threatening to grab hold and ignite an inescapable inferno. In front of us, the only thing that distinguished the Elfroad from the surrounding territory was its relative lack of undergrowth, exposing the blackened char-rock where once the elves of Innenotdar carried their families.

Our eyes stung with tears, our nostrils burned, our hands drew back instinctively, as if touching a boiling pot. As if diving into a dragon’s fiery maw, we entered the Fire Forest of Innenotdar.

After carefully examining the body, we determined that it was burning unnaturally and was beyond healing. Cyrus put it out of its misery.

Carefully searching the bodies, we recovered a box containing 50 golds, three daggers, and the clasp and metal bindings of a now-obliterated spellbook.

A couple of miles into the forest, we heard chittering and swooping in the branches overhead.

Suddenly, a flaming mephit fell from the trees, careening straight at Ulfgar. The mephit, screaming in fear and terror, scrambled behind Ulfgar, taking cover behind the monk.

A pair of giant bats, entirely engulfed in flame, descended from the branches and attacked the mephit, inadvertently hitting Ulfgar in the process. Cyrus and Eyvindr hit them as they swooped by. Torrent killed one with her axe. Xireas cast chill touch twice, missing the first time, but hurting the lone bat the second. Eyvindr flanked it, but was burned by the flaming woods. I landed a solid shot with my hammer and Ulfgar dropped it with his staff.

“Thank you,” the grateful mephit snarled, putting its hands up peacefully. “You’re my saviors. Thank you for your help. Those batsies wanted to eat me.”

“Can you lead us through the forest?” Ulfgar asked.

“What I can tell you is, make sure you don’t anger the forest,” the mephit replied. “Don’t anger the forest whatever you do. It will be the death of you! And be aware, there are more animals like this throughout the forest.” It took a step back into the woods.

“Hold on!” Cyrus cried. “Hold on. What does the forest not like, so we don’t do it.”

“You will find out!” it warned, and disappeared into the burning brush.

As we continued on, we heard wings behind us, and saw the bats rise and fly away.

Cyrus retrieved a perpetually burning stick from the road and placed it in his lantern.

We came upon a deep gorge, crossed by a stone arch bridge, 20 feet wide and 50 feet long, with 3-foot-high stone railings on either side.
Using my mason’s tools, I examined the structural integrity of the bridge, and found the closest half to be sturdy. I tied a rope around my waist, giving an end to Cyrus, and proceeded to cross the bridge.

The railing on the right side had a 10-foot-wide section knocked out in the middle of the bridge, and the stone around it was cracked.

Halfway across, a weak section off the bridge began to crack, and I soon fell through, dangling just underneath the bridge as Cyrus and Ulfgar used a pillar to support the rope. The brush burned sixty feet below, and all around me were tiny fires flickering along the underside of the stone arch, as I was surrounded by a swarm of flaming bats.

I cast spiritual weapon and swatted the nearest swarm, as they bit into me, calling out to my companions, “Help me out. I’m being attacked by a flaming swarm.” Eyvindr cast healing word on me.

With a heave, Cyrus pulled me back up to the bridge, but as soon as I climbed to the surface, it crumbled beneath me and I fell through once again, still dangling beneath the surface.

“The heat of the forge is strong with you,” Eyvindr called out with inspiration.

Cyrus and Ulfgar pulled me back to the surface, and I swatted the swarm below the bridge with my spiritual weapon and the swarm near the surface with my hammer. As I peered down into the hole, I noticed a crashed cart at the bottom of the ravine.

The bats flew up through the hole and swarmed around Eyvindr and me.

Ulfgar whacked at the bats with his staff and fists. Crystin blasted them with a ray of frost. Cyrus cast frostbite on them, but it had no effect. Xireas hit the swarm with magic missiles. I dispatched one of the swarms with my hammer.

“Hey,” Xireas cried from the edge of the bridge. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Eyvindr cast healing word on himself.

Ulfgar leaped aside as the ground crumbled beneath him. With Eyvindr’s inspiration, he swatted them bats with his hands.

“Xireas, keep your head in the game!” Cyrus shouted, casting frostbite again for no effect.

Xireas destroyed the bats around Eyvindr with toll the dead.

I smashed the bats around me with my spiritual weapon, as they stung me.

Torrent healed me with cure wounds.

Eyvindr stabbed at the bats with his rapier.

Cyrus cast frostbite again, freezing them.

“Look,” I pointed below the bridge, “there’s a cart down there.”

After I cast cure wounds on myself, I anchored the rope as Ulfgar led the way across with the other end.

Once we were across, we used a second rope to lower Ulfgar down to the ravine. The walls of the gorge were craggy stone and bare of vegetation, allowing him to navigate a path to the wreckage.

Searching the cart, he found child-sized corpses, one with a pointy hat, and recovered a small chest holding 250 gold coins, along with a case carrying what Torrent recognized as a dozen potions of stand the heat and two potions of healing.

As we continued down the path, I asked Xireas, “What’s your concern with Haddin? Is there anything that warrants a confrontation?”

“That son of a bitch!” Xireas replied. “You saw in the battle, she cast ray of frost, that was really effective?” I nodded, and she continued, “I think she was going to continue to help us and then he fucking grabbed her by the arm and stopped her from helping us. I caught wind of it and was about to confront him, and Cyrus yelled to get back into the fight, but I didn’t like it. Back in my culture, I would have cut his nuts off and fed them to a dog.”

“Okay, thanks for letting me know,” I commended. “I don’t like it either. You know we stick together.”

“In drow culture, females don’t get treated that way,” Xireas explained. “It shouldn’t happen in any culture, actually, but it boils my blood to see this happening here! I don’t know why she sticks around with that loser!”

“You know I have little tolerance for that as well,” I reassured her.

“If I can get her away from him for a little while,” Xireas continued, “maybe I can talk some sense into her. Make her realize she has more value than what the hell he’s doing to her. Abusive son of a bitch!”

As we continued on, while we were crossing another arching bridge over another ravine, we saw a hellhound carrying a large bone in its jaws. It put the bone down and backed up. Ulfgar retrieved the bone and identified it as a human femur. Carved on the bone, was a message in Common, “Leave the case. Cooperate, and we might find an arrangement to spare your lives. Carry this with you if you wish to bargain.”
The hellhound ran off into the bush.

With only one direction to continue, we decided to carry the bone with us, at least until we reached a fork in the road.

Continuing on, I cast another cure wounds on myself, and approached Cyrus. “What do you think is up with Haddin? It seems like he’s controlling Crystin’s every move, and Xireas said that when she was trying to help us in the battle, he held her back. That’s grounds for leaving him behind.”

“I don’t know,” Cyrius replied, “but he’s definitely controlling her, and I’m worried that he’s going to try some mental whammies on us too.”

“I’m in favor of dumping him, and taking Crystin with us, but I don’t know if she would be willing. But I’d rather leave him somewhere outside the forest.”

Cyrus agreed.

About ten minutes later, in a burst of flowering flame, a smoldering and cloaked creature wielding a glaive appeared down the road, flanked by two small flying creatures. “Smart negotiators always obey the letter of any contract. Unfortunately, I have already signed one. I do so appreciate your spirit.”

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