Lost Souls

Oh Deer

The party enters the otherworldly sprawl of the Sporest...

Sunday, 5th of Nerth, Year 3033

Standing in the fungus-swarmed field just miles away from the Sporest’s edge, the party begins to set up camp for the night. Magnus and Alistair examine the many varieties of mushroom that grow among the tall grasses of the countryside – some of which have grown to an immense size for their species. Kvothe searches around the grasses and finds a familiar blue mushroom known as a blue cap, an item which is valued for its use in poultices.

Unable to find any nearby trees or fallen wood, the party gives up on the idea of starting a fire, and they begin rolling out their bed rolls, or in the case of Magnus and Lilith, making themselves beds from the soft, lush grass that grows throughout the field. Lilith, having learned how to alter her body with magic, grows long, sickle-like claws and cuts through the grass with ease. Korag-Gora reclines upon his trusty door-shield once again. Alonwyn becomes troubled by the darkness setting in without a campfire, so Lilith lights up a wolf skull carried by Korag-Gora with a mellow glow. They all rest, having food, prayer, and meditation as the half-moon rises behind the clouds.

After everyone falls asleep, Alistair stays awake and practices one of his cantrips from the demonic tome – twisting, thorn-covered vines burst from the earth and tear through mushrooms, grabbing them by the stalks and shredding them apart as Alistair stares with arms outstretched.

Moonday, 6th of Nerth, Year 3033

Kvothe emerges from his trance-like meditation an hour after midnight, feeling an urge to explore the strange, new setting of the sprawling, fungal forest before them. He lithely sneaks away from the camp, Alistair not paying any mind in his state of undead torpor, and begins his short trek through the field to the southern edge of the forest. It seemed to him as he walked that the trees had begun to wrap around the camp, almost creeping closer to the group, though he knew it was most likely a trick of the mind. Strange lights and luminescent apparitions glowed beyond the edge of the woods, entrancing and inviting.

Kvothe arrives at the forest’s edge, trees and huge toadstools beginning to pop up all around him. Before he knows it, he is in the thick of the woods, climbing and struggling through thick vegetation, branches, vines, and fungus. In the dim light of the woods, with nothing but the glow of many eerily luminescent, man-sized mushrooms, Kvothe could not find any sign of the gnomes that had been previously mentioned by Aberforth and even Farmer Giles.

Eventually, Kvothe comes across the thick stalk of an otherworldly, 30-foot-tall mushroom. Drawn to its size and somewhat alien appearance, he suddenly realizes just how otherworldly the forest itself feels. In all of his travels, he has never felt the atmosphere that he feels now, within the Sporest – strange bits of plant matter and particles float and drift in the air, which is oddly humid and cool, almost perfectly comfortable. The sky, despite the clouds obscuring the star and moon, had a dim, magical glow to it. The trees feel more alive, and the mushrooms – the mushrooms!

He then notices the corpse of a deer lying beneath the gargantuan mushroom’s shadow. Feeling a pang of sadness for the creature as he notices a huge chunk of flesh missing from its neck, Kvothe could almost swear he sees it begin to stir. Then, to his astonishment, the deer slowly lifts its decaying head, opening a milky, white eye. As it picks itself up on stiff, clumsy legs, to his shock, he realizes the deer’s other side, the side that had been against the ground and hidden, has been entirely overgrown with mold, fungal sprouts and stalks bursting from its hide, the eye replaced by fungal growth – just like the rodent-like creature from the abandoned house. The deer turns its eerie gaze upon Kvothe, standing entirely still and lifeless, then slowly, gracelessly, bounds away on wobbly, uncoordinated legs. Feeling like he had lost track of time, disoriented by the “magic” of the Sporest, he decides to find his way back to the forest’s edge. Eventually, he makes his way back to the field, deciding to sit upon a downed tree trunk and meditating as the night wanes.

As the sun begins to rise, the rest of the party awakens individually, quickly noticing that Kvothe has gone missing. Magnus tries to get Barkley to hunt down Kvothe’s trail, but he seems disinterested and more concerned with being fed. Alonwyn feeds him some dried meat, but it proves unsatisfactory for the aging hound, who proceeds to stretch out on the ground lazily. Regardless, they notice the obvious trail left by Kvothe’s footsteps in the muddy earth.

Realizing they are in need of some fresh food, Alistair gets the idea to shoot down some of the birds that continually fly overhead. Sending a crackling burst of eldritch energy at a couple of low-flying aerial avians, the birds burst into a bloody, charred explosion of feathers and gore.

After packing up their various supplies and belongings, they begin following Kvothe’s path southeast to the Sporest’s edge, wondering why he would’ve left without them in the middle of the night. Soon enough, they find him meditating on the trunk of a downed tree. He quickly explains to them the details of the mysterious nature of the forest, as well as the bizarre scene involving the fungal, re-animated deer. Perplexed and perhaps a bit put off of entering the Sporest by Kvothe’s story, the party begins to discuss how they should go about finding a single mushroom in a vast, sprawling wood. They decide they should perhaps find the most heavily wooded area, and begin searching there, as it was likely to have the most plant life as well as the least sunlight breaking through the canopy.

After being given instructions from Kvothe on what to look for, Lilith spreads her wings and carries herself a few hundred feet into the air, surveying the tree tops for what appears to be the densest area of forest. She notices many eye-catching sights, the most prominent being the “hill” they saw distantly the night before, now in full view to her – an impossibly colossal and mountainous toadstool, its titanic cap a vast range of warbling hues, but somehow pulsing with a deep red, many miles in the distance, but so huge as to dwarf the trees of the surrounding forest. She also notices a few other interesting sights, including what appears to be a large clearing. To her eye, the densest part of the forest within view is the area directly east of them.

Meanwhile, Magnus spends time foraging for herbs and plants, finding a wild sage root that can be used in a poison.

Coming down to the earth, Lilith explains what she saw, and they decide to enter the forest and head eastward towards the god-sized mushroom. Kvothe offers to show them the area he explored the night before, where the deer’s resurrection had occurred.

The party treks deeper into the Sporest, immediately noticing a shift in the atmosphere of the world around them. The light – harsh, grey, and cold while in the outside world, just moments ago – mellows into a soft, dim, alien glow, warm and yellowy, like twilight, but darker. The air becomes slightly warmer, no longer chilly. The glow of luminescent mushroom caps and what could be drifting plant matter, or perhaps tiny fairy lights, create an unearthly straggle of over-sized fungi and peculiar plant life.

Moving through the choking wilderness of the Sporest and forsaking the main road slows the party to a crawl, forcing them to seek pathways safe to walk upon among clusters of fungus too large to ignore, beneath low-hanging branches, through vines and hanging growths like spider webs, and around fetid ponds covered in moss and algae too dark and murky to traverse. Using the enchanted glow of Korag-Gora’s immense shield casts a vibrant green glow upon the already alien world of the mushroom forest. Traveling so slowly, Kvothe spots many herbs and plants, finding a special moss called royal lichen growing upon the trunk of a tree.

Eventually, they come to the spot Kvothe mythicized to them that morning, finding no trace of any fauna, living or otherwise. Magnus finds an oddly familiar toadstool. He realizes it’s an amanita cap – a mushroom known for its poison. Picking it and placing it in his pack to dry, he begins plotting a use for it.

After struggling through the forest’s stranglehold for many arduous hours, the party is surprised to stumble upon a road heading eastward after a bend from the north. Here, the trees lean in and fungus crowds the edges of the dirt pathway, which is about six feet wide and marred with water-filled furrows and ruts from the wheels of wagons and carts and tracks of hooves.

Following the road ushers a swifter, easier passage through the wood for the party, and soon, after many uneventful miles, they find that a footpath branches from the main road southward, creating an almost tunnel-like passage into the chaotic density of the Sporest. Finding themselves at a literal fork in the road, they discuss the options before them and what the best plan of action is. They realize that the sun is setting and that it is already late afternoon – the already dim light of the forest falls dimmer still, as the twilit glow of the day within the forest dims to a tranquil, murky gloom.

They begin setting up camp, again questioning the viability of a campfire. The group spends some time foraging the nearby area, gathering fallen branches and bits of wood for a fire. Alonwyn uses her divine abilities to detect poison around her, and is startled to see how much of the flora is poisonous, including many of the man-sized mushrooms surrounding them. They decide to start the fire away off the road in a small clearing, just in case someone happens upon them on the road.

Alistair, growing increasingly frustrated, claustrophobic, and trapped within the Sporest, begins losing his composure and begins searching the area for any sign of the bleeding tooth mushroom. Irritated and restless, he wanders deeper into the wilderness, blasting plant-life with his demonic energy. Eventually, he notices a strange sound like the furious beating of huge wings. Sensing danger, but unable to spot a sign of the noise, he heads back to the group, brooding over his dark obsession.

A few large, wide-capped toadstools that stand around face-height to the party grow near to the fire, and Alonwyn and Lilith climb atop them and make their beds there, safe above the forest floor. Korag-Gora lies near the fire, Barkley curling up near him. Magnus climbs into a gnarled, fungus-covered tree with many low-hanging branches, tying himself to the branch and reclining in its bow. Kvothe lies upon the ground, and Alistair broods in an almost obsessive trance.

Treesday, 7th of Nerth, Year 3033

After everyone has fallen asleep, the fire smoldering in the middle of them, Alistair stirs after midnight, hungering for a soul. With eyes burning bright with white fire, he surveys his friends, knowing they are the only living souls nearby. He eyes Barkley, curious of the likelihood of a dog soul’s existence. He trudges over to Barkley as he lies against Korag-Gora, seeking to draw the dog away from the group. Instead of attempting to quietly awaken the hound, Alistair barks “wake up!” to the animal, instantly awakening him and also Korag-Gora, whose fist swiftly wraps around the neck of the revenant. This jolt to Alistair’s system snaps him out of his trance-like state.

Oddly, they suddenly notice the sounds of something stirring in the brush nearby, beyond the edge of the dim firelight. The snapping and rustling awakens Magnus and Kvothe, who instantly begin listening as well. After a minute or so of strange movement around them, Kvothe sees with his darkvision the shadowy outline of a humanoid figure, but with an alien shape and unnaturally long “arms”, intentionally avoiding them and their camp.

Kvothe silently transforms into a panther, slinking across the forest floor, eyes reflecting in the dim light. As he approaches the strange creature, he begins wondering what to do with it, wondering what its intent is as it walks around the perimeter of their camp. Before he can decide, he hears the sound of a bizarre, sneeze-like noise and a strange, bright blue glow fills his vision, and he falls, limbs rigid, paralyzed on the ground as the creature escapes.

Alistair runs to Kvothe’s side – after a minute or so Kvothe regains use of his limbs and transforms back into his original form. They go back to the center of camp, now enveloped in darkness as nothing but dim coals are left of the fire. Magnus has climbed down from his perch, and Lilith and Alonwyn awake – Kvothe tells the others what he experienced. Wondering if it will return, the group discusses what to do. Korag-Gora places a snare trap – a large net and rope rigged to a tree – beneath a tree near to where the creature passed. Soon, the party is dreaming again as the tranquility of the forest lulls them back to sleep.

Not two hours pass, however, before the startling sound of the rope slinging something into the air within the net awakens the entire group. They rush over to the trap, and shining a lantern onto the area, glance a disconcerting image – a grotesque, fungal creature, humanoid in shape and form, eyes pinpoints of light, with a large, cap pulsing with blue light upon its “head” and a body of many vibrant and alien colors, its porous orifices spouting colorful puffs of what appear to be spores, hangs within the net above them, making a futile attempt to struggle free. Standing in wonderment, and possibly disgust, the party is silent.

Just as Alistair takes a step forward, hesitantly approaching the fungal being, a javelin from Korag-Gora’s fist is sent swiftly soaring towards it.

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