As they party neared the tree, they spotted the first of the hags’ “security measures.” Laying outside the single entrance to the cavernous tree was a five-headed hydra.
Not keen on the idea of taking on the massive beast, Merek stepped up and volunteered to distract it, while the rest of the party would sneak into the tree. Surprisingly, things went according to plan for once, as Merek ran towards the silver dragon skeleton with the hydra in hot pursuit.
Slogging up out of the murky swamp water, the remainder of the party stepped into the tree, where they found another boiling cauldron like the one in the witch’s lair at Trellmont. Always thinking with his stomach, Dik dik scurried over to cauldron to take a smell. As he did, three carrion crawlers slipped out to confront the party, tentacles at the ready. Yelping in surprise, the little kobold blasted them with a color spray and dashed back to the rest of the party, where they were quickly defeated.
Being your typical group of adventurers, the party immediately began scouring the room from any valuables, finding, among others things, a magical shrunken head in what appeared to be the hag’s bed. However, as Saurok peered behind a curtain of vines, a stinger lashed out at him. Hidden behind the vines, several giant scorpions raced out to confront the party. As the party struggled to fend off their chitinous pincers, Merek rushed back into the cave. Quickly climbing up a wall, he shouted that the hydra was returning.
As the last scorpion fell, the party desperately began scrambling up the vines to a nearby ledge. However, Dik dik was unable to climb on his own power, and went into the scorpion’s grotto just as the hydra slithered into the tree. Its five heads surveyed the inside of the tree for a while, before it settled back into its former spot. Pulling out a potion of invisibility, Damhsa tied it to a rope and lowered it to Dik dik.
As Damhsa was going about her work, some nearby vines grabbed ahold of Myrtle. As the rest of the party scrambled to kill the living vines that were constricting their healer, Damhsa was able to haul the kobold up to the rest of the party. The immediate threats now dealt with, the party worked it’s way out of the alcove and onto a branch of the tree. Out of the end, they saw several beings locked in gibbets hanging from the tree. At Kiwi’s urging, the party skeptically began to try to free the occupants. Their skepticism was proved valid as the first “victim” lunged out of the cage and attempted to sink it’s teeth into Saurok.
The assault was cut short, however, when Othris bisected the vampire spawn with his great sword. Seeing the creature’s wounds begin to heal, the party sawed off its head, which they put back into the gibbet, and dumped the body down into the swamp below (without searching all of it’s body cavities for valuables, much to Saurok’s confusion).
Now convinced that everything in the nighthags’ tree was deadly in some fashion, the party ascended up another set of vines to the next branch. There they found several cages packed full of captured humanoids, and several wooden crosses much like those the wailing dead had been mounted on. On one, they saw a young woman who had her eyes sewn shut already. However, she still seemed to be unturned so the party cut her down. The party was about to leave the rest in their cages until they returned, however, Myrtle and Kiwi took exception to this, ignoring the rest of the party’s argument that it would be safer to wait until the tree was cleared before releasing the prisoners, especially given the vampire spawn they had already found.
Unconvinced, the halfings threatened to withhold healing if the people were not released immediately. Glowering at them, Merek declared that any consequences of this action would be solely on their heads, and blasted the padlock holding the cage shut. As the prisoners rushed out of the cage, they agreed to wait on that branch until the party returned. They also told the party that the hags had left the tree, but the medusa still remained.
As they ascended a rope ladder to the next branch, Merek spider-climbed along the trunk of the tree, peeking up until he saw the medusa, using a man tied to a post as a practice target. Narrowly avoiding being turned to stone, he ducked down below the branch and warned the rest of the party. Swiftly reshuffling their order, Kiwi and Saurok charged the medusa with their eyes shut, while Edular and Othris did the same with their eyes opened (because they are immune to such paltry magics). With these four preventing the medusa from maneuvering, Merek, Dik Dik, and Damhsa began peppering the medusa with ranged fire from outside her gaze’s area of effect.
Quickly overwhelmed, the medusa finally fell to Merek’s eldritch blast. While carefullly searching the body for valuables, Merek sliced off it’s head as a trophy. With the Medusa now dealt with, Myrtle and Kiwi went off to tend to Wets, the man the medusa had been using as a target. The rest of the party ducked into an alcove of the tree, where they found an ancient-looking woman who was bound to a chair by the trees roots. Her haggish appearance and tendency to ramble like a madwoman lead the party to believe that this was Mags’ sister, the Lady of Dusk.
Once the party had finally freed her, she dashed up to Damhsa, thanking her fervently for rescuing her before stopping suddenly. With a mournful gasp, she offered the plains women her condolences for her loss and stepped over to Merek. After studying him a moment, she told him that she could see he served a dark master of great power, and that “your father’s seed is strong in you.” When Merek dismissed the claim that he served any dark power, she simply stated that there were many things in life we’d rather not believe are true, but that his master was growing concerned that he knew of the repentant one. She continued to Saurok, grasping the arm that Mags had taken an incision from, telling him that it was not wise to give some of himself to the green hag. Finally she turned to Edluar, and paused a moment before declaring that he was not well liked. Edluar responded very matter-of-fact that she was obviously a liar and left it at that.
Though she was unable to give her name, stating simply that she was “the swamp,” the party was certain they had found the woman they had searched for. Leaving Dik Dik to keep her entertained while they ascended the tree, the party climbed on, determined to find the Heart.
Once they reached the top, they found that Mags had not been lying: the Heart of the Tree was indeed quite obvious. A fleshy mound of flesh ingrained into the dead tree, it beat arrhythmically at the very peak of the tree. Merek, eager to end the hag’s hold over him, leveled his hand at the Heart, waiting only long enough for the rest of the party to reach the top of the tree before firing a blast of eldritch force into it.
As he did so, the entire tree shook violently and a flock of harpies took wing around the party. Finding themselves suddenly surrounded, the party took up defensive positions around the heart, while Saurok leapt over the moat of blood surrounding it to begin hacking madly. As the majority of the harpies began to swoop in at the party, one hung back, singing sweetly. Merek was the first to become entranced by their song, but managed to recover himself before he walked off the edge of the tree.
However, Myrtle and Othris were not so lucky. They both walked blindly off the tree as they tried to reach the singing harpy, falling unceremoniously to their sudden death two hundred feet below. Enraged by the loss of companions, especially Myrtle, the party made quick work of the remaining harpies before Saurok finally managed to kill the Heart. Rising from its shredded remains soaked in blood, he watched as the moat slowly drained, revealing a trove of magical items. Quickly taking stock of their prizes and noticing that the nighthags’ mark was no longer present on Merek, the party descended down to where the prisoners, Dik Dik, and the Lady of Dusk waited for them.
Not far from the branch with the gibbets, the party saw Myrtle’s body resting on a branch above the water. The party sent Merek over with a rope to retrieve her body. Once she was back amongst them, Mag’s sister began to quickly call for “the little man’s head”. Damhsa realized she meant the shrunken head the party had found. Draping it around Myrtle’s neck, she lead the party through a ritual in in which they all pictured her alive. As the magic activated, they all felt as though they experienced Myrtle’s fall themselves. Suddenly, the halfing cleric gasped for air, looking up at the party circled around her with bewilderment.
The celebration was quickly put aside as the party noticed that Saurok and the Lady of Dusk had seemingly traded eyes. Convinced that this simply wouldn’t do, she placed her hand over Saurok’s eyes and muttered a few words. When they opened their eyes once more, both of them had their proper eyes. Saurok, however, began to flail madly, shouting that he could not see. Quickly pulling out another potion, Damhsa came up behind him and forced it down his gullet, thankfully restoring his sight.
With the party now back to fighting trim, minus the unfortunate Othris, they set about planning how to free the rest of the prisoners. After a bit of discussion, the party agreed they would not be able to sneak all of the prisoners by the beast the same way they had entered. Reluctantly, they agreed they would arm themselves with the unknown magic weapons they had acquired, and slay the hydra to allow the prisoners to escape safely, or so they hoped…
XP Award (APL 4): 675
Roleplaying XP Bonus: Saurok