The Fall of Pale Oak

In the end, it was our fault. Too eager to please and do right. Wanting to protect humanity from the Chaos. We wanted it to be true, and so we did not ask questions. We wanted to be heroes, strong and proud, and we nearly destroyed the peace and lives of so many. This is how Tree Lord Pale Oak fell, but worry not, for from even just a seed, he shall rise again.

We were sent to Greywater Fastness, myself, Miska Lightningstrike, Fjul, and Morbash. Fose was supposed to go with us, but they fell ill. Perhaps it would have gone differently, if the priestess had guided our way. It was not long, in a city such as that, for word to travel of our arrival. The people were glad to see us, and soon we were greeted by our contact.

Runelord Shot Anvilbreaker said we had arrived just in time, and we should come have a drink with him to learn of our mission. The urgency is what go to us, thinking back on it now. He told us of the tentative truce between the city and the swamp beyond. That in order to keep trade routes safe, the city sent offerings every year, but something had gone wrong. This year’s offering had been sent a week ago, but the envoy had not returned. A group from the very council, missing. He was worried both for their safety, and the safety of the entire Greywater Fastness, if the offering did not arrive. He asked us to go into the swamp, to find them and complete the offering if we could, and to bring their bodies back if the worst had happened. He drew us a rough map of where they had gone. Again, it was conveyed with such a sense of urgency, Morbash was ready to leave right then and there. But the Runelord paid for our food and drink and a room for the night, so we stayed, to leave at first light.

If you have never been to the Ghoul Mere, do not go. It is more than a swamp, but a corruption of the land. Sewage and waste pours out of the Fastness, and the lands are thick with decay and stagnant, stinking water and mud. There are no tracks to follow here, and we have only a crude map to guide us. It is no wonder that soon we see skeletons picked clean poking up from the waters. And only slightly surprising when Chain Rasps rise up to attack, but such things do not stand in our way for long.

Deeper we travel, through tangle and muck, and begin to see bone fetishes hanging from various trees. The small creatures which had surrounded us earlier have gone quiet. Carefully, we approach a mound of earth, certain that this had been the envoy’s destination, in our foolish pride. Spiked Revenants emerge from all around us, hungrily circling, but not attacking. Morbash steps forward to greet them, explaining that we are looking for an envoy from the council, gone missing.

Deep, thrumming footsteps approach, and the massive Tree Lord Pale Oak steps into the clearing. He recognizes my companions as Soulbound and asks why we have come to his lands. We explain that we are looking for the humans who were bringing him gifts,. He says they may have gotten lost and were taken by the creatures of the swamp. Morbash asks where he thinks we might look. He tells us that his people have not seen them, but that there is a darkness in the swamp. One that he cannot push back nor clear.

Morbash asks if he speaks of the Rasps, but he says their weapons are anathema to the dead. There are other things here, that worship twisted, dark life. Things that ravage his kind and that they dare not fight. Now Morbash is even more interested, itching for a fight, as always. Tree Lord Pale Oak says they are twisted things, life, but with a darkness, a taint upon it. Morbash is ready to rush right off, but I ask where we might find them, and Tree Lord Pale Oak scratched a rough map in the mound. He warns that they are twisted beyond recovery, beyond all but the goddess’ touch to cleanse, and allows us safe passage from his children.

We head off in a new direction, oblivious of the damage we have caused. The swamp is worse, now, if more fecund. Thick mold, moss, and fungus cover every surface. There are no animals here, just corpses covered in maggots. Everything is dying and living on death. I lead the group through this tainted landscape until we happen upon a dozen Zombie Dryads. Fjul sets them on fire, as I shoot one down, and then we are surrounded. They pose slightly more challenge than the Rasps, but Chaos does not stand against Stormcast nor Soulbond long.

As we continue on, the parasitic life grows even thicker, and flies feeding on corpses fill the air. As does a strange throaty singing of a disturbingly jaunty tune. I send Aswisa forward to take a look, and she sees bloated, rotten creatures with their guts falling out. A dozen of them, in a circle, singing their simple song. We sneak forward, but the Plague Bearers hear us coming and turn. We send them back into the swamp, to rot like everything else, but our enemies grow in strength with each step we take in this putrid place.

The trees thin out as the fungus takes over, and I am able to fly higher out of the muck to keep watch. Fjul does not seem to be taking the swamp well, but Morbash keeps an eye on him. We hear singing again, but deeper, ringing through the swamp. Aswisa scouts ahead again for us, to a large clearing with a pool on a hillock, covered in squirming maggots and bile. In the center, a stone ring of small menhirs and clear water in the center. Three figures stand around this pool, bloated figures with mouths in their stomachs and exposed wounds with small creatures inside. The Blight Kings are mixing together some liquids in a small bowl as we sneak near.

They fall, as all creatures of Chaos must, into the foul twisted nature they wished to commit us to, singing to the Great Grandfather. When they have fallen and we investigate what they have done, we find that they were trying to make Grandfather Essence, to pollute this sacred well. They will not have it this day. We move the bodies away, and sit to take our rest. We will spend the night here, to be sure no others come. The envoy is surely lost to these creatures, we will have to return and get a new offering to present. Or so we think, in our arrogance.

The morning dawns and we head for the city, back the way we came. When we escape the tainted lands, back into Sylvaneth territory, we find what our folly has wrought. The remnants of a great battle. The Revenants are scattered, and Tree Lord Pale Oak has fallen, killed by guns and larger munitions. Not only that, but all of their soulpods have been ripped from their chests. We hurry on, afraid of what this might mean, and find the city preparing for war.

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