The trip to the standing stones was laden with a sense of urgency. If the Priestess’s words were true, the disruption of the ancient circle of stones was responsible for the disappearance of the village in the first place, and it may well happen again if left unchecked. A quick glance by Halion into the magical realm confirmed that the Wind of Azyr was still rising, and so with Bissil, Rigor and Carmella at her side the group set off to try to save the village, as well as themselves, from becoming unstuck in time.
Upon reaching the great circle, Halion was able to confirm that they were ancient Ulthuan Waystones, usually built to harness powerful confluences of magic in the world. More disturbingly, Rigor realised that some of the trees that had grown in the centre were moving, and the spirits of the forests seemed to stand ready to defend this area. Though Rigor insisted that he had prevented the villagers from venting their ire on the overgrowth, his companions all insisted that the treemen be dealt with before they proceeded onwards.
Initially, Bissil and Halion were planning on using magic and raw savagery to draw the treemen out from the ruins, buying time for the ritual to be completed. A brief discussion on the relative speed of a walking tree concluded that the best plan was simply to begin the ritual, and then deal with the trees as they approach. Halion suggested a plan of lighting the ground on fire as a warning to the trees, but both Rigor and Bissil pointed out the obvious dangers in such a plan, not the least of which would be further enraging the spirits of the forest.
Priestess Farber moved forward to carve the first rune shown to her in her vision on the stone, and upon completion the treemen did indeed become aware of their presence and moved to charge. Bissil and the Captain stayed with the the Priestess as she moved to draw the next rune, while Halion, Rigor and Carmella began lighting torches with which to frighten or threaten the treemen into charging them. Bissil attempted to block one of the approaching trees from reaching the Priestess as she finished her latest rune, only to be completely bowled over by the strength of the creature.
As they called out for their fallen friend, Rigor realised that the treeman, though merciless in shoving Bissil aside, did not actually show signs of wishing harm onto the dwarf, and was instead proceeding towards the Priestess and Captain Baldrich, seemingly intent on stopping the ritual. Though they themselves had a treeman lumbering towards them, and both Halion and Carmella seemed ready to attack the creature, Rigor insisted that they wait for the tree to take the first murderous action against them before acting. With torches and weapons drawn, they watched as the treeman charged into the midst of them… and ignored them, continuing straight into the forest.
Now convinced there was more going on here than appeared, Bissil recovered his senses and charged the Priestess to make her stop the ritual. The Captain had already engaged the treeman that had charged him and, though not a match for the creature, was able to hold it off for the third stone to be ritually marked. Rigor began roaring at the man to drop his weapons and fall in submission to the treeman, and despite his clear misgivings he did as he was instructed and the treeman stopped attacking. Bissil knocked the Priestess over to disrupt her ritual, only to find that her appearance seemed to melt away with her leaving a cruelly dressed elven witch in her place. Pretense dropped, more elven raiders began emerging from the forest, some engaging the treeman that had charged into their midst and began to surround the group – their foe was chillingly known to Halion as the Druchii, or Dark Elves.
The Witch leader of the Elves drove a dagger deep into Bissil’s breastplate, drawing a savage wound and poisoning the dwarf, which may have muted his return blow – damaging her surely but not dropping the nimble, lightly armoued creature in front of him. As Bissil, Halion and Carmella turned their fury on the Elves that surrounded them, they were saved by the treeman that had previously engaged the Captain charging to aid Bissil, and in one contemptuous blow slaying the Witch where she stood. With their deception revealed and their leader slain, the remaining Dark Elves seemed not to fight the entire forest plus an angry mob of adventurers, and faded into the darkness.
The aftermath saw the rescue of many that the Dark Elves had taken prisoner, as well as a revelation of their plans. With more time to study them, Halion confirmed that the stones were an ancient Ulthuan method of travel, and that the Druchii were attempting to modify them to reactivate and link up to Naggaroth, their blasted homeland. A mistake in their ritual initially caused the surrounding area to move through time, rather than space, but had they succeeded this time a Dark Elf raiding party could have opened up in the heart of the Reikland, and launched an invasion on the unsuspecting populace. Hopefully with their leader dead, the survivors would not know the exact nature of the ritual, but the Captain pledged to keep a closer watch on the stone circle and prevent anything like this from happening again.
With the day most definitely saved, the group set out to return to Ubersreik, with no doubt the most successful Vigil of Schlagenhügel to date accomplished by Rigor in Roadwarden History. Despite their success, all quietly reflected that they could only hope that the Dark Elves that had escaped would have better things to do than seek vengeance on them for thwarting their plans…