There are many dark, dangerous places in Berwickshire – the mines of Dun Mhurdo, the crack known as Willow’s Deep. And then there is the Akenwode, a place of shadows and shifting paths, of whispers and dark secrets. In short, it’s not a place you want to go in willingly, particularly not after dark.
But the adventurers had to, sent by Father Francis of Sidhe on behalf of the council of the Seven in Newcroft, to seek news of a missing Rolborian Priest, with strict instructions not to enter the Lich’s Library rumoured to be somewhere in the cursed forest. Did they listen? Well, what do you think?
The party of fool hardy adventurers consisted of: Surgeon General Georgina Herald the Physician, Master Ethan Fairbrass the Alchemist, Brother Enacus and a Supplicating Priestess Sorcha Gravesong of Kharach, Sir Stewart DePiercy the Griffin Knight and his younger brother Hunter Brendan the Scout, High Guildsman Christo Eadronhart the Mercenary, Master Arthur Lightfoot of the Mages Guild, Templar Squire Daniel Mount and a pair of guildsmen scouts or mercenaries.
They set off to find the village of Edgeways where the Rolborian Priest was last seen about a month ago, no knowing what tragedy would befall them. They entered the Akenwode sooner than expected, an aged Vleyborian shrine apparently dismantled at the side of the road. Brendan carefully gathered up the remains to return it to Newcroft should it be important, what with the murmurings of trouble on the wind.
They descended to a clear path by the river, having attempted to make tracks through the thick undergrowth. Here they encountered a group of dark elves looking for some of their kin. When they got the information they wanted, the party were then attacked – curse you sudden and inevitable betrayal.
As they continued on the still night air was torn in two by an agonised scream and the adventurers rush to investigate, uncovering a nest of Agonwai. Fighting off the horrible creatures, they rescued a trio of dark elves who agreed to take them to the Library. Doctor Herald attempted to purge them of their agonwai infestation, but they were keen to be off. Reaching a crossroads, the party encountered an ambush of more dark elves and – suprise suprise – were stabbed from behind by the trio they had saved. Lesson to be learnt – don’t trust the dark elves!
They make their way towards Edgeways through a series of dark elf ambushes and are challenged by one of the villagers on watch. Seeing the quality of the adventurers and seeing as they were looking for Father Granwell, the watchman lets them through where they are told that the Rolborian Father as his pair of followers came through about a month prior, continuing on into the Akenwode with one of his devoted brethren. Brother Ifrit, a kobold, stayed to tend to the village shrine and as pies of questionable quality and chocolate was passed around, several members of the adventurers went to speak with the priest. It was at this point that Father Finwe of Longstor made an appearance, having tracked the party through the wode on some personal mission.
The kobold was in possession of a keystone, similar to one Father Granwell was using to find the Lich’s library. The Rolborian priest had begun to grow strange, no longer needing to locate the library through the keystone and becoming quite insistent they reach the library, even talking to the keystone as if it were alive. He leaves it in the safekeeping of the party when he realises they will not turn back from their mission and offers blessings for weapons and armour to help them on their way.
Outside of Edgeways the party encounter more dark elves sneaking about then come across a grisly scene – a pair of dark elves have been ripped apart as if by an animal and a young waif of a girl with a surly dark elf in attendance. The elf is quite protective of her, though she greets them gleefully – new people to talk to. As Master Arthur and others speak with her, the Kharachians lay the dead bodies to rest – sparking the comment of “mother won’t like you” from the girl. As the party gather themselves to push on, it becomes clear that the girl is a young dryad called Sylpra, daughter of an older dryad deeper within the Akenwode. She offers to help them out, opening a path back to the edge and warns them her mother’s guardians will hurt them if they go any further. When they make it clear nothing will turn them from their path, she explains a little of her mother – how her mother misses the one who is her father and has never been the same since he left, approximately 300 years ago.
As the party advance beyond Sylpra’s influence, they come across her mother’s guardians – creatures protecting the Akenwode and their priestess of Paluen, Sylwode. They attack the party and leave them for dead. Up ahead the adventurers get into a fight with a group of Paluen foul spawn and then they enter the presence of Sylwode.
Sylwode is an ancient Dryad, half mad with grief and uncaring of those gathered before her – the longstorians are only half right. – A note on Paluen: he is another name for one of the old Gods, the mix of Longstor and Krygan – Father Finwe attempts to speak with the Dryad but is directed back to speak with a Longstorian Alshanti and Brendan attempts to flatter the Dryad whilst the party try to make sense of what is going on.
She tells Brendan of her love and her anger at his betrayal, almost entrancing him into her service before she is interrupted sharply by her attendant goblin shaman who brings followers of Paluen to meet her – Ethan Fairbrass and Emeris the scout, Emeris holding a small straw doll. These two had been speaking to the Shaman and have drunk some strange brew to gain favour with the Dryad, as well as lying through their teeth about being followers of an outlawed god. Seeing the straw doll, Sylwode tells them of her lover, a great elven warrior mage who built the library in the wode. They try to tell her her love is an evil abomination but she gets angry and bids them leave. However, for the two loyal followers, she opens up a path to the library and sends them on their journey – though not until they go and sort out a troll infected with agonwai.
As the party make their way towards the library, they begin to encounter undead guarding the path, with a larger gathering of undead at a joining of paths where a wraith informs the PCs to turn aside and go no further. But the adventurers are having none of that and attack the creature, unleashing its attendant cronies at the group.
Life then becomes a long hard slog against undead forces, during which the Templar Squire is wounded in the leg and loses the limb. Carried by his fellows, they try to march on but they are losing speed and enchanted blades. They meet a strange ghostly creature, ashen white with a black mark of a Vleyborian excom on its face, which informs them they will fail and generally tries to get them to not go into the library. Brother Enacus tells it to stay there and accompany the party back to Newcroft where a Vleyborian can put it to rest, but the wode shifts whilst they are gone and the damned soul is lost once more to the wode.
At the foot of the bridge they find a man who tells them how they can cross the bridge, using the keystone they carry. When pressed he reveals he was the Rolborian Devotee who accompanied Father Granwell and he is decidedly dead. There is something evil in the library, something which twisted the Rolborian Priest until he went mad but he still lives. Until Granwell is safe, the Devotee will have no rest. The party cross the bridge without Father Finwe who sits muttering about unnatural bridges for a time, and make their way up to the burned ruins of the library – the result of the last time anyone sought the Lich’s library. The Templar is left at the bottom of the hill so he can keep guard.
In the burned shell of the library the adventurers encounter waves of undead and find Granwell frantically reading texts out of a large box. He doesn’t seem quite sane, muttering to himself and at times lashing out at the parties as the Library acts through him. The party manage to break the cursed place’s hold on the Rolborian and they make their escape, though not before they have taken a beating by undead creatures and the Templar is killed by a lone zombie. Brother Enacus quickly laid the corpse to rest to save the soul from the corruption of the Great White Lich and the party run.
The Rolborian gradually comes to his senses, though his memory of what he has read begins to weaken and he can only give the bare bones of what he has come to understand of the Lich’s backstory. The party escape victorious, freeing the soul of the devoted Rolborian, but not without mourning the loss of that brave Templar Squire.