After speaking to Pastoral Hailwic, the PCs arranged to meet Mayor Tarmikos outside of The Three Kettles. The Mayor warns the PCs about the Autumn Mother. He claims she is sinister in nature, was old when his grandfather was a boy, and never does anything for free. The town had tried to run her off on two prior locations but the old woman always resurfaces later.
Maronin tried to enlist the aid of the PCs in filling in/collasping the underground ruins found in the hills north of Triel. He explained he wanted the ruins dealt with as possible as it posed a threat to the town and would attract unwanted types (other adventurers) to explore it’s depths. Negotiations broke down after Zioran rudely interjected and Marorin returned, “For someone who knows so few people in this town, it may not be in your best interest to be so brash,” before storming off.
After asking around town, the PCs begin to make their way to the Autumn Mother. She resides or can unusually be found near a pile of stacked dolmens. Before leaving town, the PCs are stopped by a messenger, a young boy, who hands them an unsigned letter before heading back into Triel. The letter reads, “Meet me outside the Shrine an hour before dawn. Tell no one.”
Convinced there is time enough to meet the Autumn Mother and still make the appointment before dawn, the PCs begin the 6 hour journey to the standing stones. Coming upon the sacred sight, the PCs notice from afar that the Autumn Mother rarely moves and is capable of standing still for long periods of time. When closer, she resembled little more than an old woman wearing clothes of a noble or possibly aristocratic nature. Screll, due to his relationship with the Fey, identified the standing stones as being associated with nature magic and communing with the feywilds. He surmised that the Autumn Mother is either a Fey herself or else a human that has aligned herself with one of the more powerful denizens of the realm.
The Autumn Mother asked why the PCs sought her out. Cyllene stated that they had some questions to ask to which the Mother returned that she had no answers but could summon sources that would. However, first they must come to terms on a price.
Judging the value of the answers, the Autumn Mother requested one year of life from each of the PCs. She claimed, “living the year from 60-61 mattered little,” when they were probably going to a meet a violate end from the perils of adventuring beforehand, yet the years for an old woman such as her self would be precious. Cyllene tried to think of a way that such an exchange of life would be possible and remembered that any magic dealing with the manipulation of life energy fell into the domain of Necromancy. While not inherently evil, Necromancy, due to its strong potential for power, was and still is often used for nefarious purposes, and thus has a horrible reputation.
Seeing the PCs are hesitant to comply, the Autumn Mother offers to do the first ritual for free as an indication of her power. She informs the PC’s that Pastoral Hailwic has been tampering with forces of the natural order and that the Sidthe and Fey desire things to return to the old fashion. She asks the PCs to steal a scarecrow from a farm near town and return to her. The PCs agree.
Arriving around 11 pm, the PCs arrive at Aperton farm after the owners have retired for the night and find the scarecrow at the edge of the field. Cautiously making his way up to the it, Screll has the feeling that something is either watching or waiting in anticipation. Attempting to sever the unwieldy pole that makes the base of the scarecrow, he slammed his sword against the wooden frame only to feel the painful reverberation coursing up his arm without even affecting the scarecrow in the slightest. Jett and Cyllene make their way closer and notice the burlap simulacrum has an arcane purpose of warding off something undesirable. Zioran smokes his pipe near the road leading to the house while Nova edges forward without entering the wheat field. Jett noticed a fast, small moving form after making his way deeper into the fields. He drew attention to the sighting, and Cyllene quickly surmised it to be one of the Fey the Autumn Mother mentioned.
Cyllene summoned her disc to make the transportation of the scarecrow less cumbersome as the rest of the PCs prepare for a fight. Screll and Jett yank the scarecrow from the ground and place it on the disc. Sensitive to the ebb and flow of arcane energy, Cyllene and Jett experience a popping sensation in their ears when the totem is first removed. Next, a sprite flew above the grains of wheat and bowed before unflicking a straight razor. Laughing, the miniature man dove back into the high standing grains of wheat.
Small and fast, the unseelie host provee formidable. Two attempted to delay and distract the PCs by aiming for the eyes and tendons while casters and more agile sprites darted in and out, trying to wear out the PCs from range. Screll, noticing the discomfort of the sprites near him and assuming it to be the result of their proximity to the scarecrow, jumped on the disc and rode it around the fields. Zioran entered the fields and engaged the ones who were attempting to stand back from the melee. Cutting one in half, he attempted to catch its remains in one hand. The sole surviving sprite fled into the fields while Nova and Cyllene tried to stabilize Jett and Zioran, both whom by this point have collapsed due to blood loss and injury.
The scarecrow is returned to the Mother. Mumbling about interfering corn priestesses, she disenchants the totem and uses the residual magic to summon a sprite. Far better looking and amiable, the sprite is nevertheless whimsical and provides the PCs with scant new information. A string of questions led only to the knowledge that several dwarves and plate wearing human built the runes nearly 300 years ago.
Feeling the Autumn Mother has not fulfilled her end of the bargain to a satisfactory extent, the PCs are unwilling to continue dealing with her without concrete answers. They decline her invitation to consult the powers of the stars. The Autumn Mother tells the PCs she can the get the answers they need but they won’t like the source. After a great deal of diplomacy from Cyllene, the old woman reveals the exact name of whom she intends to a summon, Balzel’athan, a prince of the outer world. Although Cyllene does not recognize the name, she knows enough about demonology and their hierarchy to know that daemon princes heed only higher daemons or Asmodeus, the archlord. The Autumn Mother admitted that summoning Balzel’athan will be dangerous and that they will have little time to ask their questions as the longer a demon remains summoned the greater chance of him escaping. Feeling the information is not worth the inherit risk and accompanying price, the PCs decided to peruse other options first.
The PCs arrive at the Shrine of Chauntea at the appointed time to find Claudia Agail, the Pastoral in training, waiting. She tells the PCs that a couple who were secretly married came across a depiction of Helm while seeking places to be alone together away from the eyes of their parents. The couple found the symbol at the back of a fireplace in an abandoned and burned down house. She gives the PCs directions before asking for a favor. She relates her desire to be allowed out of an arranged marriage with Maronin Tarmikos. She asks if the PCs would try to convince Pastoral Hailwic to break off the engagement. Nova and Cyllene tell Claudia they will at the very least try.
The burned down house is located, and the subsuming investigation revealed the ruins to be occupied by an elemental of soot and ash which soon coalesces and attacks. Though initially hard to hit, the lantern like center of the elemental is dissipated after a joint effort by the group. Thanks to Jett’s arcane wardings, it ultimately offered little challenge. A button located in the eye of helm at the back of fireplace that was pressed is found to have opened a chamber in the back room. After Screll examines and unlocks the trunk found in the niche, the group finds an exquisite Mithril shirt and small book written in ciphers. Although the book is not completely filled out, a symbol of Helm is found on the inside cover.
On the way back to town, the PCs encounter a series of tracks that was not there before. Cyllene discovers that the tracks belong to a good number of kobolds making their way to town. Fearing a raid, the PCs quickly pursue. However, they soon discover that the tracks turn and skirt around Triel. Locating the camp, the PCs notice that the kobold camp lacks the sheer number of weapons and warriors that would denote a hunting party. Identifying the apparent leader, Cyllene and Nova approach while the others stand not far away. The kobold leader, Keb-Nik, approaches the PCs and informs them he means no harm. Conversation reveals that the kobolds are fleeing their home after a change of power. Keb-Niks explains that Ur-Ak, the son of the chief killed his father and assumed control of the Broken Shin Tribe after listening to the Whisper Stone, an obvious source of malignant and corrupting power. Not wanting to fulfill the wishes of the new chief, Keb-Nik gathered as many loyal followers as possible and fled the cave. Since then he has heard that Ur-Ak has aligned himself with the “Brothers,” three bugbears siblings who supply the Yuan-ti with individuals for either slavery or kidnapping. Keb-Nik warns that the youngest brother is trained in forbidden magic and should not be allowed to live.
A possible alternative to whole scale slaughter is thought of over the course of the exchange. It is possible for a kobold to challenge Ur-Ak for the right to rule. While there are no suitable candidates in Keb-Nik’s band, the shaman reveals he has the ability to brew potions that will disguise the PCs as kobolds long enough for them to hopefully challenge, defeat, and replace Ur-Ak as Chieftain. However, Keb-Nik is not entirely sure that Ur-Ak, possibly far too influenced by the Whisper Stone, will abide by the ancient traditions. Nevertheless, the shaman sends a messenger to Ur-Ak to deliver the challenge.