The Tale of One-Tree, Chapter XI: The Return to Nemnoc, Epilogue
Two weeks later, William was still busy inscribing a life trader rune onto a blade for Roza, while Roza was putting finishing touches on the finisher rune on her own enchanted blade, and was just beginning to assist Samira in putting her new woldwyrd together. Odrys, in the meantime, was leading hunting parties into Glimmerwood, and noted how the forest was slowly coming alive again now that the Orgoth site under Nemnoc had been cleansed, with the sounds of birds and larger beasts once again breaking the silence the adventurers had become used to ever since the Orgoth site had been roused earlier that year. While the adventurers were thus occupied, they had ordered the feralgeists attending them to stay hidden in their huts, and like well-trained hounds they obeyed, patiently awaiting the calls of their masters.
Heavy autumn rains were now setting in as well, and it was on one such rainy day that the sentries alerted Odrys to the approach of a lone, dark-robed wanderer from the west, who was accompanied by a spindly wold striding at his side. Odrys met the stranger, who introduced himself as Wayfarer Hamlin of the Circle, and when Odrys reported his arrival to the others, their faces immediately lit up with recognition, as Hamlin had come to them earlier that year to investigate a disruption to the ley lines in Glimmerwood. The group had found the small circles of standing stones guarding the ley lines uprooted then, and had proceeded to replant them according to Hamlin’s directions.
After taking Hamlin across the lake and into One-Tree proper, the wayfarer waited until William. Roza and Samira had finished their work for the day, and then met with them under the great ghost willow. Hamlin reported that, once again, the ley lines in Glimmerwood had suffered disruption, and that adjacent conjunctions had suffered a major drain, as if a major magical ritual had been performed somewhere in the forest. William gave the wayfarer permission to examine the land surrounding One-Tree for evidence, and assigned Odrys to him as a bodyguard, and the group also offered to accompany him on another expedition into Glimmerwood once their enchantments and Samira’s woldwyrd were complete. This prompted Hamlin to offer the spindly wold he had come with to Samira to aid her in her work, as it was a woldwright, a construct that, when directed by a Circle artificer, could assist in crafting other wolds.
For the next two weeks, Odrys accompanied Hamlin in his explorations of the plain between Glimmerwood and Widower’s Wood, during which the druid would often simply stand or sit down and close his eyes as if in intense concentration. During their daily excursions, Odrys was cagey about revealing what had been happening that year, but he did mention the toppling of an Orgoth stele in Glimmerwood, though he kept his account vague. In the evenings, Hamlin noted that there were no more fireflies among the branches of the great ghost Willow, but that the tree itself seemed to glow with an unprecedented brilliance. Hamlin also saw Odrys practice directing his feralgeist attendants, though he did not inquire further into this, simply accepting it as the workings of the Bokor William. Samira also told Hamlin about the Khadoran presence in Glimmerwood and their use of Orgoth artifacts, and Hamlin scoffed at the northerners’ foolish attempts to use such tainted artifacts.
When Samira’s woldwyrd had finally risen from the ground and been bound into service, and when the enchanters’ works were finished as well, the group only rested for one night and then finally set out into Glimmerwood as promised. The adventurers now all noted that Glimmerwood seemed to have fully become its old self once again, and after an uneventful journey towards the ruins of Nemnoc, the group found the site as they had left it, with Samira noting that there was a diffuse trickle of energy passing through the site from the north, as if from an unfocused ley line simply dissolving back into the body of Orboros.
Examining the remains of the toppled Orgoth stele, the adventurers noted they seemed brittle, which was quite unlike the normally quite impervious Orgoth stonework, and when William was easily able to chip the fragments further with a blow of his axe, the adventurers noted how their eyes, as well as the feralgeists’s, suddenly flared with what felt to them like savage joy. Hamlin, however, seemed quite oblivious of this, despite his own sensitivity to magical energies.
The group then proceeded to the stone circle north of Nemnoc, where they still found the stones lying uprooted and inert, and the gorax carcass that they had last found here now just shreds of bone. Hamlin also noted that the ley line was not flowing through the site any more, and decided they should seek out the stone circle upstream of this site to determine what was going on.
As they prepared to set out, Roza climbed a tree to scout the area from a better vantage point, and spotted a swarm of crows nearby. Directing her companions to it, they found another dead gorax, which was still quite fresh, though its stench was thankfully lessened by its demise. William then ordered one of his attending feralgeists to possess the corpse, and the spirit immediately complied, with the resulting shambling undead no less obedient than the feralgeist had been.
It did not take adventurers long to locate the next stone circle, with both Samira and Hamlin noting the swell of ambient energies as they approached. This site was undisturbed, but the outward flow of its energies had apparently been redirected southwards somehow, now passing into Nemnoc instead of through where the uprooted stone circle had been. Hamlin stated he would redirect the flow back to the destroyed site the next day, after which that site could also be re-empowered and the ley line then rerouted back into its old pattern.
During the following night’s watch, however, Roza at one point spotted a moving lambent presence among the omnipresent luminescence of Glimmerwood’s vegetation, and soon found herself face to face with a feralgeist slowly approaching the camp, its eyes firefly-brilliant; and just as the other feralgeists had done to her companions, this one now hunkered down before the shaman, its gaze lowered. When the sun rose the next day, William attempted to claim to Hamlin that he had summoned the feralgeist and bound it to Roza’s service, and tried to make his claim more believable by instructing Roza in how to approach the spirit, but the wayfarer seemed unconvinced by this explanation. When he and Samira then began the ritual to redirect the ley line back into its previous course, Hamlin then asked Samira about this, noting how he had not sensed the use of any magical rituals since his arrival, but Samira managed to brush off his concerns by referring to the well-known mastery of spirits bokors commanded – though the warlock would later whisper to her companions that they ought to be more cautious around outsiders, and that it might even become ultimately necessary for Hamlin to suffer a fatal accident if his attention should become a concern.
For the time being, however, Samira proceeded to assist Hamlin, and after the ritual had been successfully completed, the group returned to the uprooted stone circle. With the assistance of the warpwolf Bacarl and the undead gorax commanded by William, re-erecting the stones did not take any time at all, and the ritual to reconnect this site to the ley line proceeded just as smoothly, with Samira noting how her sensitivity to its flow seemed to have become markedly increased since she had enacted this rite for the first time.
After performing rituals twice in one day, Hamlin now called for the group to make camp, and told them he wanted to attempt to travel along the ley line the following day to check that the network had indeed been properly reconnected. While the adventurers were eating, however, they suddenly noticed Hamlin had frozen, watching them intently, and when they inquired about this, he told them they had just all been sitting turned in the same direction, their gazes seeming to follow the ley line’s flow.
None of the adventurers had noted this, but when they had settled down for the night, they deliberately arrayed their sleeping positions so that they all faced different directions. William then watched his companions as they slept, and to his amazement noticed that what appeared initially as ordinary restlessness and stirring in their sleep was indeed realigning his companions’s sleeping positions along the path of the ley line, with only Hamlin and Bacarl left unaffected.
When it became Roza’s turn to be the night watch, William alerted her to his observations, and asked the shaman to watch him as well as he slept. It then was, perhaps, because Roza was preoccupied with watching the gatorman in his sleep that she only noticed something was amiss when a small movement of the air carried a heavy stench to her nostrils – not the rotting-meat smell of the undead gorax, but the fouler musk of a living one, and Roza barely had time to react before the creature began to lay into her in the attempt to overwhelm its prey with a quick flurry of strikes and bites, but the nimble bloodweaver-shaman was thankfully able to dodge at least part of the blows. Crying out as much to warn her sleeping companions as in pain, Roza immediately rounded on her attacker despite her severe injuries and answered its savagery with her magic, striking with her life trader and finisher blades and finally ripping the gorax’s very life-blood from it with a spell, leaving the beast in just as bad a shape as its intended prey. Odrys was up next, but the warrior, confident Roza would not be struck down by a mere gorax, instead directed his gaze into the gloom among the Glimmerwood trees’ deathly light, and thankfully found no further attackers approaching the camp.
Then Samira rose and sent the gorax flying with a force bolt, and once this opening had created, she directed her woldwyrd to blast the prone beast with its eye’s deadly rays, slaying it. Once the gorax was dead, William instructed his second feralgeist to raise that corpse as well, though Roza at this point had quite enough of the combined stench of one already decomposing as well as one fresh gorax. Drawing on the raised awareness of the land that she had gained since becoming a host to the fireflies to find the most pungent plants she could locate, the Tharn shaman proceeded to stuff the goraxes’ orifices with several armloads’ worth of sweet-smelling herbs, berries and flowers, until she judged the stench to have been sufficiently stoppered and overpowered.
After the group had broken their fast the next day, Hamlin then stood in the stone circle, meditating silently until he suddenly disappeared in a flare of jagged jade runes. Not too long later he returned in the same fashion, and confirmed that the ley lines were flowing as intended once more. And with Hamlin’s work accomplished once again, the group returned to One-Tree.
On a lighter note:
Hamlin had at one point been nonplussed by Roza not only calling him darling, as is her wont, but also addressing him as Sir Hamlin, just like she addresses Samira as Lady Samira. The way such courtly expressions are at odds with a Tharn bloodweaver prompted the suggestion that maybe Roza had been abandoned in a city as a small child and then taken on and reared by nobility before returning to the wilderness, in an inversion of the feral-child-raised-by-wolves upbringing story…