Week 8, Reaching the Golden Fields
Our heroes had just crossed a sleep-inducing lake. Turning back and probing it, Wu found it contained a familiar sleep-spell of the sort he uses himself.
We press onward. The canyon widens out into a rolling grassland, dotted with copses of trees and bushes. The river veers off along the cliff walls. We hear a lion-like roar in the distance. We follow a faint game trail to a clump of trees, where Alag climbs up and looks about. The next clump of trees is about all there is to see, so we make for that.
This copse sits on a small rocky hill. As we approach, something comes running through the grass at us. The grass is tall, so it's hard to see what it is. It seems to be a skinny little man, waving his hands and shouting and pointing back at the woods. Just about the time we notice that he has horns we also notice the huge lioness at the edge of the woods, prowling at the edge of the rocks. She's huge AND we may be within her leaping range.
We are. The lioness jumps on Lorelei, who sleeps her on the way down. Pfusand shoots the lioness at the same time. Between the fall and the crossbow quarrel, the lioness wakes up on impact. She staggers to her feet and jumps on Lorelei again. This time, Lorelei just slips out of the way, as Cantrel weighs in with his nunchuks. David plants an arrow in the lioness, missing Cantrel by inches. They are interrupted by the horned man -- a faun, in fact -- who sputters in Faen, "Run! Run! More! Lots more!"
The lioness falls over from the cumulative effect of spells and blows, but the faun is right, there are lots more lions in the copse, at least five, including a big male. As we stare at them the faun nudges Cantrel -- DUCKS as Cantrel swings reflexively -- then asks, "Will you kill them now?" Cantrel takes no immediate action, but Wu lobs a fireball into the lion pride. They yowl and retreat into the trees. The faun says something admiring which no one understands.
Christopher asks the faun about the golden and purple flowers we're seeking. He burbles that he loves flowers and offers to lead us to some of the flowers we seek. So we put some more distance between us and the lions. As we set out, Cantrel pastes David one for his risky arrow shot.
The faun dashes into another copse and returns with a vine of red flowers. We explain gently that those aren't the flowers we want. Undaunted, he weaves the vine into a wreath and presents it to Lorelei. He then leads us off toward a hill. As we near the crest, he gets very stealthy and indicates we should do the same. He and Cantrel surmount the rise alone. On the other side is a field scattered with purple flowers, occupied by a large tree and a HUGE black bull. As Cantrel starts a cautious retreat, the faun looks puzzled and gestures repeatedly from Cantrel to the bull and back. Resigning himself to the role, Cantrel waves for the rest of us to join him. We do. The faun is pleased.
Cantrel kicks in his levitation, but discreetly so no one notices, certainly not the bull. The bull has worked himself into a territorial rage and charges. Wu throws a sleep at him, to no obvious effect. Cantrel then performs a telekinetic "leap" and swings his sword at the bull, which dodges. Cantrel then mimes grabbing onto an invisible sky-hook and hangs in the air, to the bemusement of the faun. The faun, by the way, is standing out there in the middle of the field. He has to avoid the bull just by jumping, which he does very well. He is sorely disappointed when he can't find Cantrel's sky-hook to hang onto, though.
The rest of the party throws sleep spells and sharp objects at the bull. The faun loudly disapproves of this and asks Chris in particular why he interferes in the hero's business. "I'm his squire," Chris improvises. The faun considers that this squire does not know his place.
Cantrel continues his half-aerial rodeo show. Meanwhile, Alag is quietly gathering purple flowers over at the edge of the battlefield. The faun jumps over the bull several times in the best Cretan style and Cantrel eventually beats the bull unconscious, possibly helped by the various sleep spells. Also the bull managed to roll over onto the sword that Cantrel had tossed away at one point in the fight. He is careful not to kill or seriously harm the beast, since he has an uneasy feeling it might belong to someone powerful.
We now gather flowers while we may, then scram. Now we need yellow flowers. We explain this to the faun, who picks a couple of irrelevant yellow flowers and presents them to Pfusand and Lorelei. He makes quite a show of the presentation to Lorelei, who suddenly notices that the hairy little fellow is none the less really cute and ... uh ... and remembers that another name for "faun" is "satyr."
After Wu patches up Cantrel, the faun leads us toward the hills at the base of the cliffs. As we enter the edges of the trees that cover those hills, we see a figure silhouetted against a rise in the distance -- a centaur winding a horn. We ask the faun if the centaur is friendly. "They're not an outgoing race," the faun replies, "but for a centaur, I suppose, he's friendly."
We are now in light woodland. We hear hoof-beats in the distance. Then music. Lovely music. VERY lovely piping. Cantrel stuffs scraps of bandage in his ears and notices that he and Lorelei are the only ones not marching in time to the distant piping. Uh-oh.
Our faun produces a set of pipes from somewhere and starts his own piping. Cantrel promptly kicks them out of his hands. Lorelei scrys them and finds they are enchanted with coercive magic, as you might expect. The faun is very hurt and asks if Cantrel doesn't like dancing and celebration? However, the interruption has given Chris the chance to shake off the spell. He plugs his own ears and starts playing on his lute, singing something ELSE.
Unfortunately Cantrel, whose ears are plugged, thinks Chris is sinking deeper into the fauns' music and tries to kick the lute to pieces. Chris manages to save it. He puts it away and tries chemical methods: he approaches Tom, throws snuff in his face, and uses TK to force it up Tom's nose. While Tom is sneezing his sinuses out, Chris claps his hands over Tom's ears. Tom snaps out of it. "Thag you very buch."
Cantrel and Lorelei, meanwhile, have tackled Wu, who is deeply entranced and retaliates with attempted karate kicks and charm spells until his head clears. Cantrel then shakes Alag back into his wits an cautiously uses TK to trip up Daewen, who really OUGHT to know about elvish music, all things considered. Daewen does not snap out of it, nor do Pfusand or David.
By now we can see more fauns dancing merrily in the woods. Our faun remarks to Chris, "You don't seem to be enjoying this." "Not at all!" Lorelei asks him to stop the music. He sulks but complies. Returning from his fellow fauns, he says, "They're not please about this, but I suppose we can hold off. But it IS a pity, with all these heroic deeds to celebrate--" We hastily explain that the heroic deeds are not done yet. We need these yellow flowers, see...
Our faun explains to his fellows about the yellow flowers. A dozen vanish off into the woods and return with six or eight species of yellow flowers, plus some orange and red ones. After a few more tries, they finally bring some of the right species.
Sighing with relief, we help them make wreaths of the leftover flowers, to restore the festive atmosphere. As the pipes start up again, Lorelei notices elusive willowy shapes in the forest shadows. Wood nymphs of course. She asks the faun to invite them to join us.
We appear to be in good time, since we have eighteen days to go out of the twenty-eight available. Of course, we haven't yet dispelled the blight. That's next on the agenda.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.