Indeed, the characters seemed in dire peril — vile creatures on all sides were slowly making their way towards them, creeping through the mist from the surrounding vineyards. These creatures were small in stature but certainly malevolent in nature, seemingly constructed (or born?) out of the decaying vines around them. Fearing for her life, Mahel broke for the unlocked door at the south end of the building. She opened the door and quickly motioned to Flint Tarunn to follow. And that’s when things got really weird.
Flint… changed. His jaw snapped open, far too wide for any humanoid, and he began to emit a high pitched scream, some might even say perhaps some kind of signal. His body warped and split, his head opening sideways into a gaping maw with rows of yellowed fangs. His arms lengthened and stretched, transforming into slimy dark green vines with razor-sharp inch-long thorns. He reared back to envelop the party… and that’s when a figure fell from the sky.
Hearing a high pitched yell from above them, the party saw a small figure which plunged from the misty skies above, and then landed squarely on the “not-Flint’s” head with a sickening splat. Green goo flew everywhere, spattering the characters. Standing up slowly, and turning around dizziliy, the figure presented himself as a small, red-headed gnome. It was clear the figure did not know where he was. A group of vine blights moved towards the party, and Leowen cast a dark bubble of eldritch magic at them, destroying them all instantly with the chilling darkness of her newfound powers. But there were too many to fend off at once. With no time for introductions, the party ran inside and found themselves in a bottlemaker’s workshop, most likely part of the winery. Ulfrik quickly barred the door with a table while Leowen began to blast at the creatures outside the window with her dark magic.
Feeling extremely claustrophobic and trapped, Aike kicked open the door to the north and found himself in a large multi-story room with four huge wine fermentation vats and dozens of ravens seemingly watching on the rafters above. A female druid was here, attempting to pour some kind of thick syrupy liquid into the vats. Aike lashed out and stunned the druid, preventing her insidious plan; at which point, scores of twig-like creatures poured out from their hiding spot in the empty vat and attempted to overcome Aike.
Mahel snuck downstairs, hoping to avoid untoward interaction, and found herself in the winery’s freezing cold, damp cellar. There, she discovered hiding behind the wine rack more of these plant creatures and some kind of bedraggled humanoid with animal skins and an antlered headdress with a look of malice in his eyes. The figure began to cast a spell in an unknown druidic language. Instinctively, Mahel threw a dagger at the evil figure, while Ireena, Ismark and Ulfrik ran down the stairs to assist. Wounded but not defeated, the druid cast a thunderous spell which shattered dozens of wine bottles as well as the wooden wine rack, and threw the party violently at the walls. The glass fragments flying through the air found purchase in the already wounded Ireena, who succumbed to her wounds and fell to the ground, her rapier clattering to the ground. Ismark rushed to her side, slashing violently at the creatures that surrounded her with his longsword.
Fearing for his life and completely befuddled by the events that just occurred, Marek summoned his owl familiar Sir Milton Rutherford to help scout the area and assist his newfound acquaintances as well. To prevent any further incursion from these creatures, Marek also cast a spell to create a wall of spinning blades at the northern door, but which also had the unintended affect of trapping Aike with the twig creatures and the evil druid.
As Marek watched in amazement, the ravens in the rafters quickly flapped down off their perches and began to systematically destroy the twig blights by ripping them apart, limb from limb. Clearly something VERY odd was happening here. Marek then rushed downstairs to see what the matter was with that tremendously loud noise.
Mahel leaped away from the shattered glass, and used her arcane powers to finish the druid, blowing a sizable hole in his rib cage. Grabbing the headdress (it seemed like a fashion choice she agreed with), and giving the gnome a two finger salute, she proceeded up a somewhat slippery wooden slide in the corner of the room to the next floor, attempting to elude discovery.
Dispatching the last of the vine creatures in the cellar, Ulfrik saw the gnome appear and then attend to Ireena’s wounds. Perhaps this was a newfound ally? No time to find out. Ismark helped the now-conscious but seriously impaired Ireena back upstairs with the gnome, while Ulfrik inadvertently discovered the source of the freezing cold air in the cellar – there was some form of organic matter that actually absorbed heat in a secret part of this underground area. Remembering tales of this kind of unnatural fungus, Ulfrik decided it would be best to stay clear. Hearing a small hoot behind him, Ulfrik saw a tiny owl with a top hat and a monocle that seemed to take an interest in him. What in the Nine Blazes was going on here? Ignoring the owl, he proceeded to climb the wooden ramp in the south east corner of the room.
Meanwhile, Mahel climbed to the second floor and began to stealthily investigate. Standing above a winch over a wooden cart filled with wine barrels was another of these insidious druids, this time with a blackened staff that exuded a inky magical darkness at its top. Seeing her, the druid began to utter a spell, again in some kind of warped druidic cant. Immediately realizing the danger, Mahel sprinted down the hall but tripped, sending her face-first down the barrel shaft. Already standing halfway up the shaft, Ulfrik was note quick enough to slow her descent, and she careened down the slide, landing with a plop in the glass covered cellar. Dusting herself off, and with a huff, Mahel righted herself and ran back up the stairs to join the party.
Looking out the window, Leowen saw that the creatures outside had seemingly shifted their position as they were no longer in her sights. Realizing that she could be of help elsewhere, Leowen sprinted downstairs past Mahel coming up, and then followed Ulfrik up the ramp.
Stepping off the slide to the ground floor, Ulfrik and Leowen opened a door to the fermentation room, and saw that Aike, Ireena, Ismark and the gnome were slashing, blasting and kicking their way through what seemed like dozens of minuscule creatures, all which seemed comprised of rotten and dead twigs. The evil female druid with the flask revived from her stunned state, but was immediately dispatched by the party; all the while scores of ravens flowed through the room, destroying these blighted monstrosities left and right. Sensing a threat, Ulfrik rolled down his sleeve. Leowen watched as what seemed to be a tattooed set of words on his arm began to shift and glow, releasing a dark red beam of energy which lanced through the air at a figure on the floor above them. It was the third druid with the staff! Adding her own power to the attack, Leowen lashed out with hexed magic which finally incinerated the druid as he fell through the air. The staff clattered noisily to the ground. It seemed that the tide was indeed shifting to the party’s favor.
Sensing its power, Leowen retrieved the staff and attempted to discover its secrets. She came to understand that the staff seemingly had some sort of power over these plant creatures as well as the ability to vampirically sap life from whatever the staff struck with a physical blow and bestow that life energy upon the wielder.
Finally, the twig creatures and druids were decimated, and the ravens returned to their perches in the rafters. Sensing a break in the action, the party determined to find out who their new ally was. Marek introduced himself, and stated that he had been tracking a powerful though young dwarven priest named Flint Tarunn. Divining his potential whereabouts, he was drawn in to this land by ghostly claws made of mist, and then found himself falling through the air.
Deciding the best course of action was to split up and search the winery for any evil druidic forces, the party discovered that indeed, they had not completely dealt with the druidic threat. Mahel watched in shock as more vine creatures circled around the front of the house, where they were able to slowly creep through the loading dock. Mahel hid in the shadows, her teeth chattering in fear. Meanwhile, in the floors above, Leowen and Ulfrik made a terrifying discovery in a room in the corner of the house – a fourth druid, this time accompanied with hulking creatures made of thick branches. She rifled through the desk and drawers, seemingly hoping to find something that eluded her. Setting her reddened eyes on the black staff that Leowen carried, the filthy druid hissed in hatred and lurched forwards in attack….