Chapter 33 - The Idol in the Forest
Released from the Realm of Winter, the companions resume their journey north to Kaverinka. A cold rain pours down after the Grandfather's Realm had melted away, and the Yokels try to take cover under trees, but it pounds relentless, and soon, Vasilisa in particular is soaked to the bone. It lets up around noon, and the group takes advantage of the long period of daylight to make up for lost time. Having arrived at a good resting point, they start a fire, dry their clothes, and hope Vasilisa doesn't come down with anything too nasty. As their spirits are bolstered, they turn to cheerful matters, such as which type of wood is right for restraining an upyr' in its grave. The following day, the air grows warmer, though the rain returns, this time as a lighter drizzle. While sheltering, they espy a pack of wolves watching them from a distance. Plamen lures the alpha over to him, and quickly learns that the beasts are hungry, He convinces him to partake of a special berry he picked the previous day, and though he is a predator, the wolf decides to give it a try. His hunger sated, he agrees to allow Plamen to leave berries for the other wolves, which they eat. After the rain ends and the party sets on its way, the pack follows them. There are four adults and two cubs, as well as an omega wolf, which is initially passed over for a berry, but finally, fed as well. Plamen promises to continue to feed them if the wolves watch their rear, and maybe, bring a little meat to share. The pack mostly stays out of sight, but Chonkorchuk sees them as a blessing that makes the group's progress more secure. The third day after leaving Grandfather's Realm, and the fourth day since leaving Krinets, is overcast, but the rain finally subsides, though the forest is swampy and the mud makes progress slow. Drazhan and Vasilisa try to pick their away around the mire as best they can, and toward evening, Vasilisa starts to feel a little better. The party subsists on goodberries and a little foraging and hunting - the wolves are not pulling their weight, so far. At night, the watchers smell a great stench, and in the morning, they discover an enormous beaver carcass a short ways away. It seems like it was killed, or scavenged by the wolves. But there seems to be nothing to salvage. The next day becomes muggy and warm, though the terrain remains swampy. After Plamen nearly falls into some quicksand, the party discovers an abandoned cart, which was not quite as lucky. A half-hearted attempt is made to try to pull the vehicle out, but it's not worth the effort, as the party lacks a draft animal, and the vehicle is abandoned. The wolves finally share their catch with the group. Vasilisa begins to make friends with one of the pack members, and thinks of taking him along as a more permanent companion. The following day remains quite warm. No obstacles aside from mud are encountered during the day's travel, but as the group searches for a place to make camp, they discover a standing stone in the woods. The stone has four sides with roughly carved faces on each side. Chonkorchuk recalls seeing something similar in the heathen temple in the The Otherworld, and Sasha identifies the faces as those of Perun, Veles, Mokosh, and Dazhbog, god of the sun. Chonkorchuk quickly identifies an aura of conjuration as emanating from the stone, even as his fefila shows signs of nervousness. This is obviously a place of great power. The bottom of the stone is brown and discolored. Chokorchuk begins to try to clean it, but Sasha indicates that the brown discoloration is likely blood - sacrifices were made here. Since most (if not all) of those present follow the Old Gods in one capacity or another, it is decided to hold a ritual, to see what the stone in fact summons, despite the obvious risks. Plamen, as a trained volkhv, officiates - he catches and sacrifices a hare, and as chanting and singing is led by Sasha, sprinkles its blood onto the stone. Chonkorchuk sees the idol glows, but nothing else happens. Disappointed, yet relieved that nothing untoward appeared, the party settles down for the night a short ways away. Several hours later, as Drazhan stands watch, a group of horsemen approach. As the former ghazi wakens his companions, their leader demands to know what they are doing camping near the idol, and informs them that they have intruded on their lord's woods. They demand payment for the party having intruded on the lord's domain, and after asking what the group carries, say that they will take their silk as sufficient recompense. The men seem well-armed and fairly well-dressed, but skepticism abounds as to whether they are who they say they are, or just simple bandits. In any case, they are mounted, and they outnumber the party, so Chonkorchuk and the others decide that it is better to pay than to pick a fight. After taking the silk, the riders escort the party off their land, and leave them in a thicket before melting away into the woods. Hoping nothing worse is in store, Vasilisa sets up an alarm around the new campsite, and takes up the watch. But the travails of the Yokels are far from over. Just before sunrise, Vasilisa begins to hear tittering all around. She wakens her companions to the sight of little toadstools with legs forming a ring around them, and beginning a dance. As they twirl, they laugh and taunt the party by chanting that they are lost. Drazhan in particular feels like he has fallen into a dream, as he rubs his eyes, and transforms into a wolfman. The mushrooms soon declare that their lord, the Tsar of the Forest, will soon appear, and demand his tribute for the intrusion. The party realizes that they have been placed in this thicket on purpose, and that the riders are likely in league with this lord. Soon, a small, bearded figure is seen among the toadstools. It is wearing clothes, but backwards, and bast shoes, but on the wrong feet. It also sprouts vestigial horns from its head. To Chonkorchuk, this is something familiar - he met such a creature in the Otherworld, on the banks of the River of Fire. Then, he escaped it by turning invisible and fleeing. Now, he decides that they have been pushed around enough, and, as the creature begins to grow to the size of a tree, he issues a challenge. Drazhan wonders, aloud, what a talking mushroom might taste like. He howls at them, but, as they are not livestock, they remain unaffected. The Tsar of the Forest calls forth the vines and crags of the thicket to begin to envelop the party. He then takes up his monstrous cudgel, and heads straight for Plamen. The volkhv tries to drive the creature away with by summoning a wave of thunder, but the Forest Tsar is now a a large creature with legs like tree trunks, and cannot be disposed of so easily. He makes it over to the healer, and bashes him with his cudgel. Meanwhile, Vasilisa escapes the vines and fires on the mushrooms. Drazhan, surrounded, becomes enraged, and launches himself at the little creatures, who pile on to pummel him from all sides. Chonkorchuk, still stuck, blasts the Tsar, but to little avail. Sasha attempts to bathe the enemies in a glowing light to make them easier to strike, but succeeds in outlining her allies as well, and soon abandons the effort. Seeing Plamen beset, Vasilisa rushes to his side to draw the attacks of the giant Tsar away from him, She deflects the strike of his cudgel, though her new dagger becomes bent out of shape as a result. Chonokorchuk's two blasts strike the Tsar square in the chest and in the head, and he becomes stunned and disoriented. This turns the tide of the battle. Plamen takes this opportunity to summon four warhorses, who proceed to stomp the tsar into the ground. He returns to his original size, and feebly begs for his life. Vasilisa announces that they will take his forest away from him, but he promises to send his servants for an item of wondrous power - a sack from which two servants emerge - in exchange for his release. Feeling that he is lying, the companions decide that it is better to finish him off, and the mushrooms, lamenting the death of their sovereign, begin to melt away into the woods, but not before Drazhan swallows one of them.
- A leshy and his mushrooms are defeated
- Report Date
- 27 Jul 2019
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