Antlers. A two hour hunt followed by an even longer ritual and the elves give us antlers. I guess they are enchanted to show the way to the home of the hags, so it was worth it. And now, like some disgusting out-of-the-way roadside pub, I have antlers.
After the elves left we rested for the long march ahead. Rebrus the Gnome returned having prepared some spells to combat invisibility. There was mercifully little conversation on the road; everyone was focused on the task ahead.
As we approached the haunted place, we could hear sounds of metal and woodwork—then suddenly we were aware of a menacing presence. Lightbeard and Rebrus began throwing fiery spells into thin air. An evil cackle broke the silence and it was obvious some evil was attacking our spellcasters. Lightbeard cast some sort of enchantment near me, and we saw small balls of light that had been causing him some pain. Within the enchantment we could see the balls that were otherwise invisible—once we could see them they weren’t all that difficult to destroy. Stabbing them gave a strange sensation—having one pass through you was stranger still, and even brought a pain and helplessness that is difficult to describe. After dispatching them we regrouped, edgier than before and ready to fight something substantial. I have to say, the magic-users were indispensable here, even if later they nearly led us to catastrophe.
Gabriel and I moved a short way ahead—I could count at least 6 sets of gnoll tracks leading into what appeared to be a huge tree canopy. The only entrance was a sort of chiseled tunnel/slide leading downward into darkness. We stood at the entrance deciding what to do. The spellcasters wanted to start the whole thing on fire. Apparently they had a number of different spells with which to achieve this, and they moved along the edge of the tree talking. Then they talked some more. No, they weren’t talking, they were arguing like an old married couple. (Or so the saying goes, I’ve never been around such people.) I fear that our inability to come up with a coherent plan of attack may be the death of us. Or at least, some of us—if I learned anything in my training it was how to escape.
I started to feel uneasy. Dark, unnatural clouds blew in, as the activity below us in the tunnel increased. A gnoll appeared, so I promptly put an arrow through his nose and foot (the only parts exposed beneath his shield) and then all hell broke loose. First, a lightning bolt struck Rebrus, knocking him flat. Lightbeard, I think, sent a ball of flame down the side of the tree toward the gnolls, before another bolt struck among us. I’m not even sure who got hit, but then Lightbeard, with a crazed look in his eyes, emptied a potion into his throat…which gave off a burst of light, blinding Bodhi. The flaming sphere and our arrows finished off the stupid gnolls at the base of the slide. Lightbeard also seemed to have developed the ability to shoot lightning bolts at will.
Standing on the edge of the tree, we could see a naked elf woman, a girl, really, sitting in the central branches casually calling down the lightning. I fired off a shot with my bow, surprisingly hitting her as the others jumped down the slide into the space under the canopy. Bodhi got up, looking stunned, but apparently his vision was returning.
The elf-woman caused spikes to appear on the slide in front of my comrades; they all bailed out (with more or less (mostly less) athleticism) before entering the spikes. I came down more slowly, hitting the elf again with an arrow. She seemed genuinely surprised at my aggression, calling out “But we’re sisters!” Sisters we are not…but her words did sow seeds of doubt. Gabriel seemed to catch on, responding in kind, and she suggested that she only attacked us because we were going to set her home on fire. Fair play I suppose, but why would she live with a group of evil gnolls? And why were there dead fey hanging from the branches, their blood running down to feed the deranged tree? We must know.