Phantasmagoria - Chapter 1

Author: Steve


The nights are definitely getting cooler.  The blaze in the firepit is no longer for just light and cheer.  Kelloran, Stone and Thomas have pulled up benches and chairs close to the flames and are enjoying the evening. 

Earlier that day Thomas had been gathering alchemical supplies and discovered a barrel of stout ale hidden within a hollowed out tree.  He pulled the barrel out and to his surprise a second barrel appeared.  He gave the second cask a pull but it would not budge for him.   Stone was just down the hill from where he was.  There was some sort a weird fungus killing trees which the druid wanted to take a look at.  Safety in numbers and all that. 

Stone had taken some samples of the dark red mold and was just about to commune.  His mind was beginning to fill with green and the voices of the trees whispered.....

"HEY STONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  COME HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!", bellowed Thomas from the hilltop.

Sighing Stone rose and climbed the hill with fragments of the forest mind flittering about his thoughts.  After checking for curses, which there were none, he lifted the second keg out of the tree.   It too was magically  replaced.

"Cool, huh?" said the tall crafter.

"Never seen one of these before.  Think we should..."  The green voice.... what had it said.....  something...   said ...... DANGER!!!   Stone slammed an arm into Thomas's chest and drew Thorn.  Knocked back, Thomas caught his foot on one of the casks and fell.  Pitching over backwards saved his life.  He heard a bizarre sound then felt something scream through the spot he had just been standing in.  A section of the tree exploded behind him.  He started to roll to his feet, quickly assessing the situation.  Stone was charging towards a pair of goblins but off to his right another goblin was bringing a weapon to bear on him.  It looked like a crossbow but massive and mal-formed.  Thomas ripped a fist sized stone from the ground and hurled it.  The rock struck the goblin in the shoulder ricocheting to graze its skull.  The bolt shot from the crossbow awry enough to miss Stone.  Splinters were blasted from a pine a few feet ahead of the druid.  The sharp fragments cut his arms and face throwing off his balance.  Before his foes could decide between attacking and fleeing a huge crack reported from behind Thomas.  The far goblin cried out a warning and bolted, followed by the two others. 

"OH SHIT!!!" swore the two adventurers in concert.

Having lost a large section of trunk to the first bolt, the hollowed tree was coming down. FAST!  Another crack sounded and the canopy began to twist.  Thomas gave the two overturned kegs a shove towards the hill and then leapt down it himself.  If they made it great but avoiding getting flattened was a somewhat higher priority.  Stone glanced up, made a quick choice of direction and bounded down the hill after Thomas.

The top of the big old tree ripped branched from its neighbors, hurling them in all directions.  Both Stone and Thomas were nearly impaled a number of times.  Finally the tearing sounds ended with a deafening crash.  As the rustling quieted the sound of the retreating goblins cackling with glee reached the two men.

"Gods I hate those vermin!!" Stone swore.

"Where the hell did they get those crossbows?  Probably takes a dozen of the little shits to load one."

"Maybe.  Did you see how misshapen they were?  They looked more like they were grown than carved.  Arboleth made them.  Good chance they are blessed by the old DemonTree.  They definitely are way stronger than anything that slip-shod looking should be.  He might have made them easier to reload too.  We need to warn the others.  Those things could tear a limb off.  Simple healings won't help that."

Thomas looked up the hill and to his surprise saw the kegs had not rolled far enough to gain speed and split open against a tree but far enough from the fallen tree to escape. 

So after a day like that, evening finds the two sitting by the fire.  Thomas' keg turned out to be mead not stout as he first thought.  Stone’s, surprisingly, was a perfect hard cider.  Kelloran had joined them as they returned to town, healing the cuts in Stone's cheek and arms. Feeling mellow talk turns from friends who will be wintering in FallenStar to those who have decided to travel to Dryad lands or other such places less locked down by ice and snow.  Thomas has elected to stay and winter is good time to work on those long distillations.  Stone still wants to uncover what the burgundy fungus is and how to stop it.  Kelloran decision came from the Gods.  His prayers have been interlaced lately with strange scenes.  He has been working with Chells to try and resolve what they are.

"Where is Chells?  I haven't seen him for weeks." Thomas remarks

"Well you won't during the day much any more.  I think he has finally succumbed to batdom.  Mind if I borrow a dust?"

"Sure what kind?"

"Let me just see your belt-pouch and you'll see."

Thomas shrugs and unclips his dust bag.  Kelloran roots through is for a second, uncorks one and flings an orange cloud into the air.

"HEY CHELLS!!!", he calls

Chells floats into town.  His shadow is just a smoky darkening as most of the moonlight passes through his spectral body.  Thick black chains cover him from wrist to elbow almost like bracers. 

"hEy gUys" he hails in a ghostly voice.  "wHaT aRe yOu tHRee uP tO?"

"Chells.  What happened?  How did you die?" Stone asks dumbfounded.

"He's not dead."  Kelloran interjected.  "I tried raising him yesterday.  He has figured out a way to become a spirit and ...when was the last time you were flesh?"

"JuSt yEsTeRdAy.  I cAn'T SeEm To StAy ThIs wAy iNdEfInAtElY.  iT's So CoOl ThOuGh.  tHeRe iS sO mUcH mOrE tO sPiRiTuAlItY aNd WiLl ThAn I hAd EvEr GuEsSeD."

"Well grab some mead or cider, pull up a dead log and join us.  Kelloran was just about to tell us of his visions." Thomas quips

"vErY fUnNy."  Chells replies with a phantom chuckle.  He sits cross-legged about a yard off the ground.  His hands shape around a tankard none of the rest of his friends can see from which he sips at times.

"Ok Kelloran. Start from the beginning." Stone prompts.