Once Helicon had finished his tale, and our chronologically displaced heroes had agreed to help him find his brother, together we headed to the nearest village, a halfling settlement called Burrowby.
On the way there we passed groups of workers, made up of halflings, elves, and humans, tending to the farms and letting us pass without incident. As we entered the village, a small group of halflings approached and offered us free food and lodging – and although our party was initially suspicious, their motives appeared to be true, and we soon discovered the town was populated with some of the most honest folks we had encountered thus far in all our adventures.
After some discussion, the halflings led us to an indentured human servant that was working on one of the nearby farms. Going by the name of “Lucky”, the strapping, muscular man was good natured, and happily agreed to join us at a tavern for some mead and small talk. Throughout this exchange, our party noticed that Lucky had some similar facial features as Helicon, and was indeed a likely candidate to be his lost brother.
Lucky revealed that as a boy, he had often been called “halfling” and that he used to appear almost Elven to the appearance, but he firmly maintained that he was a human. Mat revealed we were beginning to believe that Lucky was Helicon’s lost brother, and urged them to spend some time getting to know each other.
Meanwhile, Raven excused himself to speak with Lucky’s master about the terms of his servitude. He found out that Burrowby would soon be voting on the abolition of slavery, but was still very much divided on the topic. It seemed that a significant event could sway them to go either way. Raven also learned that a nearby temple honoring the goddess Yondala had been taken by a dark force, and the loss of their holy place weighed heavily on the people of Burrowby. Perhaps purging the temple would help lessen the villager’s cloudy and muddled thoughts and come to a conclusion on their civic matters.
Leaving Helicon and Lucky together at the bar, our group headed to the temple, a two day hike eastward, that ended at the shores of a large lake where the underwater temple was hidden.
But before our heroes could proceed, we heard the sounds of a scuffle coming from a shipwreck on the lake shore. Noticing the bodies of halflings strewn about the beach, we rushed to the shipwreck to discover a lone halfling fighting a giant crab inside of it. Behind them, a gnoll was tied up and begging to be set free. Quickly dispatching the large crab with a few well-placed blows, Bru and Kellin then questioned the halfling, who told us that his name was George Leafcutter and that the gnoll was part of a hostage negotiation. He said that his family had been abducted by the gnolls, and that he wished to trade this tied up gnoll to get his family back. It turned out the captive gnoll named Meatball was actually a reincarnated halfling that had been brought back in gnoll form, and that he had agreed to be a part of this transaction willingly.
George stated that they were on the way to swap the hostages when his crew had been attacked by a band of gnolls. Just then, an arrow struck Raven in the back and our group realized they were no longer alone. Three gnolls aimed arrows from a nearby cliff side, about forty feet up from the beach. Kellin unfurled his wings and took the fight to them, as Bru shot arrows from his longbow from his cover behind the ship.
Meanwhile, several swarms of crabs had been approaching the shipwreck, as well as another giant crab, which kept Mat and Zefir busy. Mat pulled some flammable oils from his pack and attempted to set the crab swarms aflame, while Zefir used her scorching ray spells on the creatures.
After a struggle concluded and the assailants had all been vanquished, Kellin grasped one of the gnolls who was still alive and flew him back to the group. Together we decided to move forward with the hostage trade, and with great mercy, even included the gnoll who had attacked us as a part of the trade as well.
Once we all reached the meeting spot in the forest where the hostage trade would occur, Mat’s ability to speak the language of the gnolls came in handy as he began the negotiation in a peaceful manner. The gnolls accepted the trade and the two warring groups separated without animosity. Raven took the opportunity to drive home a point about how slavery was always bound to result in grievous imbalances of power, and it was often easily abused. Our new halfling friend George agreed, and after thanking us for helping return his family, he headed back to town.
We turned back to the lake, and soon found a coral stairway that led down into the rippling deep. Several bushy plants surrounded the stairs, each bearing beautiful flowers that appeared edible. The halflings had told us that the temple of Yondala was underwater, and given us a heads up that these plants around the stairs would have magical properties which allowed people to breathe water. We wasted no time consuming the plants and descending underwater, feeling the effects of the plant immediately.
It was as if a giant kelp forest stretched out before us, waving and swaying in the current. An obvious path stood out, winding deep into the kelp, and as we began to follow it, soon a skeleton with black bones approached us menacingly. Bru caught a glimpse of the creature that caused him to be shaken to the core, but he soldiered on and soon the heroes had destroyed the skeleton. Not much further on, a shark attacked us, and after the initial melee, thankfully Zefir’s divine fire came to our rescue and her scorching ray finished the beast.
Wearying of this increasingly dangerous underwater journey, Zefir cast a locate object spell on the temple entrance, which soon led our group into a clearing where a coral sphere stood, enclosed around three halfling women. With their hair flowing in the water around them, the women pleaded us to free them, which they said could be done by returning a stolen artifact that had been buried in a graveyard not far from here. Raven sensed their motive was unclear, and as we all attempted to disbelieve in the illusion of these women, Bru caught sight of their true form, which resembled an ugly sea-hag. Signaling to the others, he communicated this while attempting to keep the revelation hidden from the sea hags. Raven had enough of the deception, and attempted to attack the women. He cast a pit spell on the edge of the coral sphere, but soon found out that an invisible barrier was the true cage imprisoning the sea hags, and the pit hadn’t affected it.
The three women appeared to be casting a series of spells, and soon had summoned forth a giant moray eel and three undead skeletons that shambled across the bottom of the lake towards our group. Engaging in an extended underwater battle, our heroes tussled with the summoned creatures, and along the way discovered that the barrier around the sea hags was a lattice that had holes and gaps that small weapons, like an arrow or a rapier, could pierce. No sooner had the sea hags summoned another dark beast into existence and into battle with our heroes, so Zefir changed up her attack tactics and began to cast spells attacking the witches. As the rest of the group battled and narrowly overcame the summoned creatures, one of the sea hags approached the side of the barrier and gazed at Bru with her Evil Eye – staggering him. Barely able to drop his sword and grasp an arrow with both hands, Bru swung the arrow with both hands towards the sea hag, plunging deep into her eye and causing her to drop to the ground.
The rest of the group continued their slow and steady assault against the hags, until suddenly the force barrier around the hags disintegrated and our heroes rushed in and wasted no time in finishing the hags once and for all.
A vision came to us at that moment – of a golden cornucopia that fit perfectly into an indentation in the floor beneath us, where the hags had been. Recognizing this imagery as the artifact that had been described as buried in the nearby graveyard, our heroes gathered our wits and set out for the cemetery.
As we approached the graveyard, we noticed that several small halflings wearing strange masks were wandering about. Lore had it that these were undead halflings, or “hollow-heads” as they were sometimes referred to. There were a great number of them, spread all around the grave yard, so our group split up into two halves: Bru and Mat taking one side, and Zefir, Raven, and Kellin taking another path. As Raven’s group entered the gravesite, the hollow heads all turned and started walking towards them, and Bru and Mat remained hidden. As Raven lured the hollow heads towards him, Bru and Mat crept towards the large grave. Buffing Kellin with every damage resistant spell and trick known to them, the other group sent Kellin out in front, and the hollow heads surrounded him and raised their weapons.
Next, Mat disabled a trap on the grave, and Bru began to smash the gravestone, as Kellin was beginning to be pummeled by the undead halflings. Finally pulling the golden cornucopia forth from the dirt and rubble, Mat held it up in triumph and the group began a mad dash to run away from the hollow heads. The undead couldn’t keep up, and our heroes had soon returned to Yondala’s temple with the cornucopia in tow. Placing it into the indentation we had seen in our visions had a divine effect – suddenly the water cleared and the kelp around us seemed brighter and healthier.
Four flowers suddenly glimmered and appeared before us, as a blessing from the goddess Yondala Herself. These flowers could be used to increase the likelihood of avoiding negative spell and environmental effects, or as a one-time tool to break enchantments, or consumed to heal someone in dire need.
Sharing a celebratory cheer and packing the valuable flowers into our packs, we contemplated our next steps…