I yelled at Ulzmila that we were here for some help. To my surprise, she pulled back the grass golems.
Ulzmila snarled at us, "What do you want?"
Dorl and Vrek didn't catch this, being too busy with the grass golems. Sogash and I did though; Ulzmila looked concerned. Even worried. (Notice base 3 / wild 6+4)
We exchanged a glance before I explained why we were there, starting with Healer Keesy Brahkose, then describing the Blackscour Taint and the ‘cure’. Something in what I said made her frown harder. (Persuasion Base 4+3 / 4)
It was hard to tell what since she hadn’t done anything but frown since we arrived. Now, she looked more concerned.
After a moment, she asked us to prove we’re from Winterhaven. So, I produced the letter from Healer Brahkose and handed it over. Other than Vrek’s word, it was the best we had.
Ulzmila hesitated, stared at us, then invited us in… provided we drank some tea first. That was odd but we needed that root from her.
The tea came from the herbs she had drying on her porch. Water came from the cooking pot. It was risky. Real risky. Everything I had read about hags said they weren’t to be trusted. But if you managed to get a deal with one, they’d keep it. Anyway, we needed those rat tail roots from her. So I drank. The others followed my lead.
Ulzmila’s tea was cedar, sage, and sweetgrass. Not bad. A little tart. The hag watched us carefully while we drank. Then watched us a moment longer. After that, she invited us inside. I wasn’t comfortable with any of this, but it felt like the right thing to do.
Inside, Ulzmila told us she remembers little Keesy. She also remembers her grandmother, Ereda Thulane, who studied with Ulzmila.
I could tell Ulzmila didn’t trust us, not really, not entirely. But, her story did explain a few things.
She does have pickled bitter rat’s tail root, plenty of it actually. Blackscour Taint? She’s knows what it is and has dealt with it before. It was years ago when she was teaching Ereda. At that time, the Blackscour Taint was caused by a kobold druid named Tigni Tuskbow. That druid, and his companions, went digging in an old ruin with some companions. They released the Blackscour fungus from an old, abandoned dwarven monastery.
The fungus immediately infected the forest. Ulzmila and her apprentice went after it and did eventually get it under control but wound up in a duel with Tigni. It turned out that Tigni had been hired to recover the fungus. Who would want something like that, I have no idea.
In the end, the duel between the two went bad for Tigni. He tried to hide in an old crypt near the heart of the forest and wound up cursed as a half-zombie.
Ulzmila agreed to help us IF we go and wipe out Tigni. She suspects the half-zombie druid, who is still around because of his ‘condition’, is behind the problems at Winterhaven.
I was willing, so was Vrek, but Dorl and Sogash weren’t sure. First, making a deal with a hag can lead to a bad end. Then Dorl didn’t like the idea of the kobold being a druid. Sogash was suspicious about the half-zombie part of the story.
Personally, I was convinced at ‘zombie’. The ‘druid’ only added to the threat since any druid I knew wouldn’t have done any of this. Which meant Tigni was one of those ‘rot druids’ or corrupted druids.
As for the ‘half-zombie’, I’d read rumors about those. They were rare and dangerous. A half-zombie had the curse, or disease, of a zombie combined with the living mind of a person. Usually that person was deranged or possessed. Here? It would be a corrupted druid.
Dorl and Sogash took some convincing. Hearing ‘corrupted druid’ didn’t help but they recognized the danger. They finally agreed.
The only lead we had was the kobold tracks we had spotted on our way to Ulzmila’s cabin.
After we agreed to Ulzmila’s deal, we set out for the half-zombie’s trail. Ulzmila said she would fix a fresh batch of pickled bitter rat’s tail root for us as payment. We could have it once we’ve removed the zombie rot from her forest.