“Right! If there’s some majik portal leading us back to where we came from, stands to reason it’s still there! And I’m gonna find it! An’ if it isn’t there, Peck, it’ll prove you been makin’ up this whole fancy little story!”
With that, the dwarf plunges headlong back into the still waters of the Court of Flowers’ mirror pool, churning the glasslike surface into a turmoil of blue water, green leaves and petals of every hue. Cedric and Benji share a look, and then the half-man continues his tale.
“Well, I was getting a bit ahead of meself, Mister Cedric. As to how we got here…you remember that direboar meat you and Kok ate? And, if I may say so…maybe not the best idea to put something in your mouth just because Kok does?”
“Aye, a stupid act of bravado on my part, Ben. One that I paid for dearly…” The young man winces in memory and rubs his belly. “How long were we out for? I can’t seem to remember any of it!”
“Yes. Werrlll,” Benji is at a loss for words. Probably best not to mention that, in between bouts of riotous vomit, teeth were beginning to take on a pronounced…tusky aspect, and hands were assuming a more hoofy form. Kok and young Marshall had been knocked out by a poultice that Del managed to scrape together from moss and dirt, or so it looked to Benji’s ignorant eyes, and Roland had spent the better part of an hour with his hands on the afflicted party member’s foreheads. Belaurs and Eammon watched his technique intently, and seemed satisfied at the end of the ritual. “Maybe this’ll give us Dal Gurath’s first dwarf vegetarian,” the tiefling said with a wry grin. Benji and Del, meanwhile, had been lashing branches together to make a set of crude rickshaws. So, with their incapacitated comrades being hauled on makeshift sleds behind Roland and the ranger, the group continued their search for the portal to the Feywild.
“Let’s just chalk it up to a baaaad case of food poisoning, Mister Cedric. Where was I…Oh yes! We were totally lost in these woods as it looked to me, searching in vain for a place of water. Or something. Mister Quinn insisted that we needed to be by a water crossing, maybe a waterfall. You know me, Cedric, I’m just trying to keep up and stay out of trouble-“
Benji is interrupted at this point by the splashing of the dwarf, making his way back to the edge of the pool and cursing angrily. “I knew it! Nothing down there, Peck! Soooo answer me this?! Why did I come ‘round with Roland draggin’ me through the water and tryin’ ta drown me??! Where is that polished-up nit…” Kok’s string of curses become unintelligible as he storms off into the woods looking for the paladin.
“-trouble,” Benji repeats. “I ain’t cut out for forests! So I’m just trying not to get lost, when Del, who was dragging Kok, dropped him and held up a hand. I think I saw this smile of satisfaction flash across his face when Kok’s head hit the ground but he could have just been glad his ranger prowess spotted something in the distance. Anyways, we left the both of you hidden in some undergrowth and continued more cautiously.
“Would you believe we were standing right by this lovely pool and waterfall after not 10 more paces? It’s like it appeared from out of nowhere! And then Del whispers that we are bein’ watched, and points to the ridge just next to the top of the falls. Sure enough, there’s a person standing up there…and it looks like he’s watching us, too. I make myself scarce, hiding in a bush and doing such a keen job of it that not even Del could spot me…(if I do say so myself)…so you can imagine how terrifyin’ it was when I hear a voice next ta me from out of nowhere! ‘Cozy here, isn’t it?’ The voice says, which spooks me so much I hop right out of there…and didn’t shriek at all. Nope.”
Benji stops to scratch his nose. From sounds in the distance, Kok has caught up with Roland and is upbraiding the paladin for trying to drown him. Roland’s measured tones can barely be heard under the dwarf’s tirade.
“Then this little man bursts out of the undergrowth chasing a bear cub,” Benji continues. “He’s my height, but definitely not Nolleh. Mister Quinn thought it was a gnome, but Del said it was a Maguffaguffa, and says that in his village, they would steal your bots if you didn’t put rocks in them at night. Mister Quinn looked at him and asked if he could visit this village someday, which just shows you again what a nice man Mister Quinn is, wanting to meet Del’s family and all. Anyways, there comes a splash from the pool, and this amazing creature climbed out of the water! It was half-man, half goat, the bottom half being the goat part. I mean, it walked on two legs, but they were goat legs, and it had arms and a kinda elven face and a beard. And it welcomed us to the Court of Flowers as if we were honored guests!
“‘My name is Montealban! We shall feast and drink!’ Which sounds good…normally. But this place felt…wrong, Cedric. Like when you wake up in the middle of the night and you are sure there is someone in the room with you that shouldn’t be there. He introduces us to his other mates, the maguffy, the bear, and the man…actually an ELADRIN who was watching us from the ridge, whise name is Palion. You’ll meet him soon. Also, the satyr (that’s what the goat-man was, according to Belly, and you can usually trust him when it comes to majik creatures and the like) was only speaking elven, so we can’t understand not one word except for Mister Quinn. I introduce myself to Montealban nice as you please, but I don’t think he could understand me neither. So Mister Quinn, who is now speaking for all of us, is telling the satyr the we need to know how to get to the Feywild, and the maguffy asks me if I like mice, and then pulls one out of the ground as if it were a flower, like I said, WEIRD, and all of a sudden Montealban gets angry looking, I guess because he wants us to stay and dance and feast, when Mister Quinn invites him to a game of chance. If we win, we get knowledge of how to cross to the other side, and if we lose, we will stay and feast.
“They decide on dice. It’s a game called Low-Hi by the Tashkat, Del’s got another name for it, but at any rate, they sit down and start rolling. I’m keeping one eye on the dice cup and one on the weird maguffy, and it is clear that Mister Quinn has won about 3 times over, but the satyr ain’t playing fair. Then, when Mister Quinn rolls a two, the goat-man smugly guesses higher…and rolls a one! Have ya ever heard of someone’s face darkening when they get upset? I ain’t never seen it happen literally until just then. My hand went to my hilt, and I thought there would be blood spilled right there, but Palion said something, and the satyr shouted back at him and stalked off.
“’You have won, so I will show you the ceremony to cross to the other side.’ His hands were trembling, and his eyes got all feverish, but he shared some words with Mister Quinn, who invited us all into the water to stand next to him. I went first! I swallowed some water when the whole world went upside-down and inside-out…and I popped up here, in this glade. The others all followed suit and soon we were all out of the water, and staring at…the most beautiful lady…”
Benji trails off, and stares away into the distance. “Come over here with me, Cedric. I’ll show you. We went back for the two of you after…” They walk for a small minute, young man and half-man, away from the pool, and Benji stops in front of a small pile of bodies. A satyr, body riddled with arrows and cuts, and sopping wet. An enormous owlbear, skull crushed by numerous hammer blows, fur scorched by dark eldritch blasts. A small, wild-looking man, crumpled and bloodstained, his head almost completely severed from his body. Last, a pale form of beauty, the most gorgeous female creature Cedric has ever laid eyes on, even in death. A pair of Del’s feathered shafts blossom from her perfect bosom, and someone has folded her hands over her chest in the repose of a fallen queen. Kneeling over her, and staring at her face with a mixture of rage and grief, is an Eladrin. He looks up at the pair who approach, and his eyes soften.
At that moment, the sound of an angry dwarf cuts thought the solemnity, and Kok, being led by Belaurs and followed by the rest of the party, emerges through the soft light of the forest. “Here are the members of Court of Flowers we spoke of, dwarf,” Belarus explains. “That fair thing is a nymph, and held these poor beings in her thrall. She commanded them to attack us when we surfaced from the pool…only Palion here still lived when she was slain and her spell was broken.”
Kok can only stare at the fair vision lying in repose, and as his usual rage and bluster escapes, the power and sensation of his surroundings flood in to take their place. His eyes widen and he stifles a gasp. “Wha…what is this place?!”
The Eladrin’s lips crack into a grim, thin smile. “You’ve come through to the other side, Kokurel, “ he says softly. “Welcome to the Feywild.”