Help us send a message to them. Rylan Woods doesn't belong to them and the cost to try and lay a claim is blood and death.
After their confrontation with the servants of Moth the heroes decided that a brief respite was needed and it so happened that Caellana's home glade was very near by. After two days travel northwest they found her little grove, the mana leaf trees and peaceful quiet they'd been looking for. They also found that a grumpy old squatter had moved into Caellana's tree house while she's been away. They're quickly able to get the man to pack up and abandon his claim to her property but not before finding out that other visitors had entered the woods recently as well.
He revealed that wagons, merchants and shady individuals had been arriving in force for the last few days and setting up a large encampment nearby. And, they'd been sawing down large swathes of trees to make room for themselves. Cordelia's suspicions were eventually confirmed, it was members of the Black Thorn Society along with many of their merchant allies and mercenaries and they were setting up a slavers' market. They also had with them a contingent of Tengu sages who were manufacturing Manacite and allowing the toxic runoff from their operation to seep into the nearby ponds where it was having harmful effects on the local wildlife.
By the time they arrived in person to scout out the Black Thorn activity they found a quarter mile section of the woods cleared away and replaced with vendor booths, wagons, food carts, sleeping tents and a hoard of criminals conducting their secret business. Cordelia maneuvered them onto the main entrance path to this festive gathering and using her connections with the Black Thorn brokered entrance for herself and the others. Posing as criminals they went about investigating the market and doing their best to keep Caellana in check. The sight of so much wanton devastation had left her speechless and the way these people were polluting the region ensured that a healthy regrowth may never be possible.
They saw stalls selling basic goods, oddities, relics, arms, armors and similar mundane products. Yet, there was also more than just the standard stock and store there too. Some were selling ancient texts, magic items collected from across Tairos, captured beasts and even chained slaves. Meanwhile, Cordelia infiltrated the grand pavilion tent where the market's most influential were gathering. It's here that she saw wealthy merchants from Frial , Melanthris and even Ghal Pelor working out hushed deals in the dark. She also saw Sharps and Thorn Lords alike gathering to parse out successes and strategies for expanding the Black Thorn Society's power in the region. She also learned that one of The Three Crowns was here in person overseeing this court of thieves. The Black Crown.
The Black Crown was a Halfling dressed in simple dark attire but he wore many pieces of exotic jewelry such as rings, necklaces, wrist bands, and gleaming piercings. His identity was concealed behind a simple, old, black mask made of weathered porcelain. The Black Crown seemed to attract a great deal of attention and veneration from the leaders in the pavilion. She watched while he was lavished with gifts, praise and tributes of wealth.
Meanwhile, outside the pavilion, the others wandered the market taking in the gleeful celebrations and abject misery of the slaves. They also happened across a stall run by a group of loggers from the city of Rylan who were selling one of their mechanical logging machines. They demonstrated its effectiveness by showing how the giant buzzing blades can carve effortlessly through the old oak. The display made Caellana even sicker. It's at that time that Riken and McKenna noticed a few of the forest's squirrels acting very strangely; hopping from tree to tree, observing the actions of the crowd with purposeful awareness. When they brought it to Caellana's attention she quickly realized these creatures were under the sway of druidic magic and that they were reporting what they saw to some hidden master. With that she and Beorna confronted the little beasts who quickly darted into the woods. Caellana followed while Beorna struggled to keep up.
The squirrels led her to a group of five individuals all concealed behind heavy cloaks and hoods. One stepped forward and pulled back his disguise to reveal rugged, handsome, elf who introduced himself as Lyrun Thoon. He explained to her that he was a member of something called the Choir and that they are protectors of the forest. They're here to halt the Black Thorn's desecration of the woods and to send a warning to others to stay away. Thoon hopes to accomplish that by killing the Black Thorn leaders here.
Caellana brings the others in on Thoon's plan which is simple enough; during the height of the evening's celebration they will free the animals in the beast pens as well as the captured slaves and set them all loose on the gathering. Meanwhile, during the commotion they the leader's pavilion will be targeted and everyone inside slain to the last. Everyone else agrees to help Caellana and the Choir as the actions of the Black Thorn here are reprehensible.
That night they divide into two groups, Caellana leading the effort to free the beasts and Beorna the slaves.They try to locate Cord and fill her in as well but aren't able to find her. She's been in the pavilion this whole time learning what she can about the Black Thorn operations while posing as a guard. That includes learning that a local Black Thorn Sharp by the name of Sifter is in charge of the Tengu manacite operation. Sifter is also the Sharp in charge of several Black Thorn gangs in Frial whom Cordelia met recently.
When the time is right Lyrun Thoon gives the signal. In the beast stalls Caellana finds a number of captured bears from her forest all trashing against their cells, eager for freedom. There are few other odds and ends but it is the large cage in the center that draws her full attention. A wyvern from likely captured from the mountains near the Tairos River or the ruins of Muldrak . It seems to be one of the many lavish gifts meant for the Black Crown. She uses her spells to speak with the creature, whose name turns out to be Gaulroch and who is eager to be set loose upon his captors. Caellana frees him and even gets his permission to ride on his back while he attacks the Black Thorn gathering.
Meanwhile, Beorna frees the handful of slaves kept here who all scatter quickly. However, one cage, covered with a heavy tarp, opens slowly and unleashes a mass of writhing vines that pulls one of the slaver guards in slowly to be ground into bloody pulp. Emerging after the deed is done is the dryad they met so long ago at the Calloway Arms Inn and in the forest the day after. She skulks out fully and Beorna recognizes her as Ceska, the older and more protective of the dryad sisters. The other one, Anfisa, is nowhere to be seen.
Ceska is filled with rage and pain as she explains that the Black Thorn killed her sister. And, that Aelfric is also the target of her blame as well for his brutal attack on her back at the Calloway Inn. She lets Beorna leave without a fight, choosing instead to spend her time with one of the Black Thorn guards who had surrendered during the brief fight. She grabs his head and lets her vines snake into his nose, throat and eyes; delighting in the slow ravaging of the man's insides.
The attack on the gathering begins in full when the freed bears begin mauling their way through anyone they cross. Thoon sends them a magical command to focus their rage on the Tengu manacite operation while he and his people begin targeting anyone fleeing from the pavilion. Cord, still disguised as a guard, helps the Black Crown escape along with his elite soldiers. They flee toward the rear of the gathering and to his stage coach. The Crown is very upset and rants the entire time about how many will view this failed event as a betrayal of trust. The coach lurches to life with all of them on board (including Cordelia) but moments later everyone embarked hears a soul-shaking snarl from above before the wagon erupts. Caellana, having seen the coach escaping, directed her wyvern ally to swoop into it with claws barred. Several guards were killed outright as was the Black Crown himself. Cord suffered severe injuries as well that nearly ended her.
The Wyvern landed and began eating both the living and the dead with bestial glee. Cord identified herself to Caellana and the Wyvern to avoid the same fate and then went about finishing off any surviving bodyguards so there could be no witnesses. Most of the Black Crown's body ended up in Gaulroch's belly but Cordelia managed to get his mask first.
Meanwhile, Beorna, Riken, Mckenna and half a dozen bears crashed into the Tengu production area. The guards defending it immediately took a strong defensive position against the bears but this allow Beorna and the Moondalls to slip past and defeat the defenders not engaged already. Once they were dealt with Beorna entered the Tengu tents to smash their alchemical instruments and put an end to their production. Sifter grabbed for a potion bottle full of raw, unstable, manacite to throw at Beorna but in the process he shattered the container and spilled the contents all over himself (critically failed his attack roll). The elements inside began to warp and blister his skin, causing his feathers to fall out and flesh to burn. He was carried away by the other Tengu while Beorna smashed everything else in sight.
After a brief but bloody affair the Black Thorn Society was scattered in every direction. The forest will likely take its revenge on the many survivors as well but more will make it to the main road and spread the Choir's message. Thoon was grateful to each of them for their assistance and truly impressed by Caellana. He thanked her for standing with them before returning to the deep woods. Gaulroch also took his leave back to the mountains from which he came. With the long journey ahead of the heroes Caellana is left to wonder if the forest can survive without her.
XP and Cordelia should get a permanent +1 bonus to all Streetwise rolls thanks to the info she picked up in the Crown's Pavilion
Caellana's home is secured again and the Black Thorn are forced away
Character(s) interacted with
Ceska, Lyrun Thoon, The Black Crown, Sifter, Gaulroch