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Jeva screamed. The girl thrashed in her blanket, arms and legs flailing as she fought against whatever unseen horror lurked in the darkness of her dreams. Boris, who had managed to drink his way through his own watch and now worked on doing the same through Sonia’s, attempted to wake the girl and calm her down. Jeva slowly returned to wakefulness but it was too late. Her screams had already drawn something to the party’s camp.
Out in the smothering darkness of the forest came an unusual sound. A strange, atonal warbling wound its way through the trees – now quiet, now loud – and creeping ever closer. Soon, by the light of the newly rekindled campfire, the source of the noise reveals itself. A cloud of roiling black smoke rolls to the edge of the camp. A gibbering skull, its eye sockets blazing like malevolent embers, floats in the centre. The skull’s constant cacophony of nonsense words washes over the party, but they shake off the entrancing effect.
Boris attempts to taunt the spirit and Damian launches a bolt from his runic bow. Both are ineffective. Dymas launches a hail of magical arrows that shred the spirit’s incorporeal form, banishing it from Mundus in a crash of noise and smoke. The force of the volley cuts a swathe through the forest, toppling a large tree into the camp site. Embers and flaming brands scatter into the undergrowth and the party are forced to quickly extinguish them.
In the aftermath, Jeva relates a tale of how, while gathering food, she hid from a group of lumberjacks. A creature like the one they encountered had floated from the trees, entrancing the woodsmen and then devouring them as they stood there.
The Assassin Vine
The party set off in the dim, pre-dawn light. At midday they come across the body of an adventurer. His head has been bashed in but there are no clues as to how it happened. Boris and Kiera bury the unfortunate soul after it has been stripped of valuables. Among the dead man’s effects is a blood spattered sack containing three large iron goblets of dwarven make. They are also covered in bits of tissue and blood and appear to have been the weapon with which the adventurer was slain. A quick prayer is said and the heroes move onwards towards Droskar’s Crag.
Making camp, several hours later, the party realised they were less than a league away from the monastery they had recently visited. Jeva’s directions pointed firmly in that direction. The orphan girl had gone off to gather firewood when there sounded a scream from downstream. Kiera, Sonia, and Boris immediately rushed to investigate while Dymas took a more cautious approach. They found Jeva, at the foot of a large willow on the river bank, clutching her ankle. As Boris moves forward to help a huge vine uncoils from the tree, lashing at the dwarf’s head and shoulders.
Armed only with a shovel, Boris attempts a heroic defence but suffers a heavy blow. Rushing to his aid, Kiera swings her sword in a wide arc. She cleaves a rod’s length from the end of the vine in a spray of bark and sap. The plant’s retaliation is swift. Coils of the vine twist their way around the swords-woman, lifting her from the ground. She gasps for breath as the vine begins to squeeze.
The plant proves both remarkably resistant to damage and incredibly strong. Its tough bark skin turns aside shovel strikes and arrows, and even wounds from Dymas’ artifice weapon fail to inflict any lasting harm. The Assassin Vine crushes Kiera against the willow tree. Ribs snap and blood erupts from her mouth as her life is being squeezed away. Sonia finally remembers the dwarven arrows the party found in the monastery. The flaming bolt, its bound elemental spirit screaming, smashes a gaping wound into the plant and, at last, it dies.
The heroes, taking stock and helping their wounded comrades, notice that Jeva has disappeared during the fight. She is found back at camp, blaming herself for the grievous injuries Kiera suffered. Luckily, Sonia’s healing abilities – augmented by prayer – are able to repair most of the damage.