7. What Ever You Do – Don’t Split Up!

Zelmar went back to the others to report his findings so far.
“Be extra careful and do not attempt to cut down any mushroom be it for food or merely because it is in your way. I have a feeling we are not seeing everything there is to see in this mushroom forest…”

Then he went back to continue following the path with all his senses alert.

Zelmar moves quickly along the path to the where the sidetrack heads off to the pool he discovered earlier. He stops and listens, then moves on more cautiously. He walks 100 metres further, until the path begins its meandering, one in three climb to the tower 700 metres ahead. There are fewer orc tracks here and many are older too.

50 metres up the slope, a set of tracks comes out of the forest to the rangers left and crosses the path. These tracks are much more recent and human by the boot prints. They lead off into the forest towards a collection of four 3′ high violet mushrooms, growing it seems on or next to, a fallen human. All Zelmar can see of the man is a left boot and lower leg, the rest is concealed by the mushrooms and other fungal undergrowth.

~

Gildor works with Gordon to see if there is anything else they can glean from the platform and says, “Without actually trying to use the device I think we have learned all we can from it. We can either use the device and hope we have figured out it’s purpose correctly or we can follow the orcs.”

Kradorn mills around waiting for a direction. They seem to be waiting for something to happen with the disc/transport thing. He would prefer to be hunting the orcs… well killing them actually. But Cynan wants the party to stick together. Which is probably safer. It leaves most of them standing guard till the Transporter is figured out.

Kradorn looks about for movement amongst the shrooms. Bow in hand and arrow at the ready. Looking to see if he can see Zelmar moving.

The warrior moves up the path slightly, away from the party and the discs so he can see the point at which the mushroom filled tunnel widens and begins climbing up to the tower, 1 kilometre away. He spots Zelmar about 350 metres away, where the path begins to meander up the slope towards the tower.

Cynan looks at the portal for a moment thinking, then seems to come to a decision. “So be it, Gildor and Gordon do your best to activate it. If you can I will enter the portal to see where it leads then come back to this side after a moment. Once I have determined it is safe, well as safe as we can hope we will all go through. I doubt it is a one way portal as someone had to take the townsfolk through it. If however I fail to return then do what you all think best, and before anyone argues it is wisest only one of us risk this, and as leader tis only right I try it first.” Cynan draws is blade and prepares himself to enter the portal after offering a quick prayer to Ringheru.

“Grand then will have to avenge you. Trust me I will kill them all and in a manner that won’t please you. So be safe and return safe.” Kradorn replies.

Gildor say, “I must go with you or Gordon must go with you, so one of us can activate the return portal. I’ll go. Give us a count of 300 to return. If not back by then, it’s up to you as Cynan said.”

Gildor and Saphiria step onto the crystal disc with the standing stones with Cynan. He gets his bow ready. He puts his hands on the stone to activate the portal.
Gildor say, “Please bless us goddess of the summer.”

Gildor touches the standing stone and it goes dead again, exactly the same way it did when Gordon touched it. Touching the standing stone again brings it back to life. Cynan looks at Gildor, Gildor looks back at Cynan and shrugs his shoulders, Gordon puts his head in his hands and Burgo lets out a growl of dwarven frustration.

“I wonder if it needs some trigger or key. To complete the process.” Kradorn comments as he sees the disc fail again.

Gildor says,”Hang on it may just need to power up.” Gildor keeps his hands on the stone for a while longer. If nothing happens the he continues, “Well maybe it needs both Gordon and I to power it or we might need to cast magic into it somehow.”

Gildor checks to see if anything else has changed when the stone lit up. Does the light in the stone go somewhere he can see? Are there foot prints going from one stone to another stone starting from the one that lights up first?
Gildor says, “Make note of my steps to activate this so you can repeat it should we vanish suddenly.”

Gildor looks closely but can’t see any sign of the glow of the standing stone spreading to anywhere else.

Gildor checks to see if any other stones will activate once the first one is lit up by pressing his hand to the other stones one at a time looking for a pattern or sequence and says, “Let me see if there are more stone that will light up once the first one is active.”

As soon as Gildor’s hand touches the next standing stone it hums into life like the first, though perhaps the hum is louder and the tiny arcs of lightning inside both stones are more vigorous.

Gildor continues to the next stone and so on signalling to Cynan and Saphiria to be ready and making sure the others note his sequence.

Cynan nods in approval at Gildor’s actions “I think you have solved the puzzle my friend. They all need be touched it seems.” He grips his sword in his hand prepared to enter the portal.

Gildor touches one standing stone after another and the light and sound builds as each comes to life. As he touches the last stone, purple-white lightning flashes between the stones for a fraction of a second and then there is a bang and a shimmering blast of warm, moist air engulfs the party.

The heat and moisture dissipate quickly and the ringing fades from the ears of the remaining party. Cynan, Gildor and Saphiria are gone, the stones and the crystal disc upon which they stood are cold and dead.

~

Zelmar followed the path up towards the tower, using the terrain as much as possible to conceal his approach.

Zelmar is creeping through the mushroom forest, moving silently and concealed by the dense vegetation and his magical armour, when from behind him comes a purple flash, like high lightning in a storm. A moment later a crack of thunder rolls through the cavern, alarming the wildlife and filling the air above the forest with a blizzard of flapping and buzzing things. It takes several minutes for the confusion to die down and the ranger to feel safe to continue. He is about 450 metres from the tower (530 from the party) when he notices movement to his right. Slithering silently across a mushroom is a one and a half metre long centipede, its colour and texture ideally suited to its fungal surroundings. Three more of the vile predators move along with it. A pack perhaps?

The ranger freezes as the foul things crawl past, no more than 3 metres away, their antenna quivering and feeling the path before them, sniffing for the slightest trace of prey.

30 seconds later the monstrous centipedes are gone and the ranger moves quietly on.

50 metres ahead and still climbing towards the tower, he comes to the base of a huge spreading mushroom, 6 metres high and 12 wide, whose underside seems to have been colonised by the glowing lichens hanging from the roof of the cave. Five brightly glowing globes hang from the underside of the mushroom on slimy silken threads.

300 metres from the tower he encounters a huge white stalagmite almost 10 metres across and 20 high jutting up out of the forest floor. The thing is festooned with cup shaped fungi collecting tiny splashes as water drips constantly from the cave roof high above onto the tip of the stalagmite.

Zelmar gets to within 200 metres of the tower and finally gets a good look at it through a gap in the mushrooms. He can see a section of the tower itself and a wall connected to the tower. The wall is about 10 metres high and 1 wide at the top, with battlements facing away from the ranger. It seems to span the width of the whole cavern.

However the tower and wall are both in very poor condition. The wall has collapsed in two places that Zelmar can see and the building from which the tower rises looks as if the mass of fungal mycelium and thicker vine-like hyphae covering the exterior are all that are keeping it from collapsing into rubble.

~

Cynan and Gildor are dazzled by the purple flash of the teleporter and there is a moment of panic as they are engulfed in a blast of heat and moisture. The human and elf’s ears and innards feel peculiar until yawns can equalise the pressure.

Cynan readies his sword and looks about for immediate threats while Gildor strains to make out any details of the Stygian landscape in which they stand.

They have appeared on a crystal disc which sits on an open plain of flat, dark rock extending away into the darkness all around them. A ring of 5 standing stones lies about 10 metres behind them and four more sets of stones form a larger circle around them.

A pale mist hangs low overhead obscuring the night sky and it is this mist that provides the only faint illumination. The air is hot, humid and unmoving; rather like being in a bath house notes Cynan, and the moisture in the air forms a faint haze which limits vision to about three hundred metres.

It seems there are five pairs of crystal discs within a smooth circle of rock about 80m diameter, with another stoneless disc in the centre. Directly across from Cynan and Gildor a wide road of smooth rock extends off into the mist. Both human and elf think they can see faint lights in that direction and Cynan is about to speak to Gildor when he hears the faintest sound. Even quiet and muffled as it is by the thin mist there is no doubt in the paladin’s mind that he hears the sound of rattling armour.