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June 11, 2007, 8:35 pm

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Lost Harmony


The Aelfen Court of the Golden Leaves has always been friendly to the Kingdoms of Men, but perhaps that has changed…

The Beginning:  Dutys Call
The Sire of Golden Leaves voice was almost inaudible, as the Aelfen lord digested the terrible news.  It is true, then?  The Eldest has been called to rejoin the gods?

Yes.  Im afraid that your Court has little time:  The Golden Leaves must travel to the place of Driemords fall, there to recall their ancestors role, repeated the messenger reluctantly, as if he were repeating a sentence of death.

A good time for such things has never been known, replied the Aelfen ruler.  We shall fulfill the Geasi that bind our line.  I shall tell the Golden Leaves to prepare.

Background:  Brackenfield and the Elves
Few people know much about the rural village of Brackenfield.  A quiet town of perhaps 600 souls near the Elf-haunted Gloamswift Forest, this isolated hamlet is something of a backwater.  Its sole distinguishing characteristic is a nearby grove known as The Court of Faerie Song, where the reclusive Aelfen Folk of the forest meet once each month with the humans for an exchange of tales and songs.

The elves in the forest are not all pleased by this interaction.  While the Sire of the Court of Golden Leaves, the dominant faction among the Aelfen Folk, feels that everyone benefits from these exchanges, the elves of the Wood Guardians disapprove.  Their leaders would love to see all commerce between the Young Races and the Aelfen Folk halted.

When the courtiers of Golden Leaves journey to a distant religious gathering, the Wood Guardians remain.  Unchecked by the moderates of the Golden Leaves, these xenophobic elves expand their efforts to protect the forest from interlopers.

The Elves of the Gloamswift

The Elves of the Gloamswift are generally referred to as the Aelfen Folk, but may also call themselves the Children of Ehlan, after a hero of legendary fame.  Many of the local elves claim relation to this great warrior-mage, but the Sire of Golden Leaves is the Heir of Ehlan, and may claim direct descent.  His ancestry is a source of great prestige among the forests inhabitants, but carries many responsibilities. Among the Aelfen Folk, it is considered unwise to reveal ones true name.  They have many tales of wizards that were able to use such knowledge to enchant and control unwary victims.  Because of this many elves will use elaborate use names and colorful titles, keeping their names secret.

A Visit to Brackenfield
This adventure opens with the player characters in the quiet border village of Brackenfield.  They may be inhabitants of this bucolic hamlet, but are more likely to be travelers coming to attend the Court of Faerie Song, held in a grove near the village whenever the moon is full.  The enigmatic Aelfen lord who holds court there is known to share strange and wondrous lore and songs of ancient days.  Adventurers seeking knowledge may be directed there by sages or bards, who will have advised them to bring worthy songs or tales to share with the mysterious fae.

Plot Summary:  The Treachery of the Wood-Guardians
The friendly Aelfen Court of the Golden Leaves has been forced to leave their home temporarily to fulfill an ancestral vow.  In their absence, the Aelfen warriors known as the Wood-Guardians have taken it upon themselves to patrol the lands of their nominal allies.  While the Sire of the Golden Leaves anticipated that the Wood-Guardians might be hostile toward trespassing humans, he did not anticipate their true plans:  They hope to instigate hostility between the humans and the local Aelfen court.  The allowed a band of human ne’er-do-wells to intrude upon their allies’ stronghold, waiting until they had clearly violated the Court’s most private spaces before capturing them.  The Wood-Guardians hope that their execution of the humans will end the Golden Leaves’ cordial relations with the younger races.  If the adventurers do not find a way to intervene, their scheme just may succeed.

The Grove of Faerie Song
The humble village of Brackenfield lies near the lands borders, hard by the trackless Gloamswift Wood.  Little distinguishes this modest hamlet from others in the realm, save its one strange claim to fame:  The nearby Grove of Faerie Song, a circle of towering pines with a mushroom-filled clearing near the center.  On the nights of the full moon, elves from the nearby Gloamswift Forest visit that eerie place, there to trade and to exchange strange Aelfen melodies for the songs and tales of bards and jongleurs. 

Resplendent in embroidered robes of bright cotton and elaborately-painted silks, the mysterious Aelfen lords of the forest there hold court, gathering in that ancient spot to share their music and poetry with those who bring worthy songs or epic tales.  A feast of subtly flavored wines and spiced breads is served to any who dare partake, but few are so reckless.  The superstitious tales of the peasant folk are filled with the fearful cost paid by those who foolishly indulge in the wines of Aelfenkind.

Those bold few who partake of the unearthly libations of the elves are granted fantastic dreams and eerie visions, frequently returning the following month with inspired new songs.  Some, who have truly impressed the elves with their compositions or performances, are even invited to visit the hidden court of the Aelfen folk, the Court of Golden Leaves, deep within the Gloamswift Forest.  Of the handful of bards so honored, some are never again seen in the realms of men, but those who return have been granted hidden lore, knowledge ancient when men first walked the land. 

The Forsaken Grove
At least, that is what has been told of previous full moons.  No Aelfen visitors appeared within the Grove of Faerie Song this night, however.  Instead, an eerie vision was the herald of a horrifying encounter.  Near midnight, the moon slowly dimmed and reddened, becoming only a pale shadow of its pale glory.  In the dim, ruddy light of the eclipse, a massive wolf appeared, ferocious and terrible.  Its coat white as moonlight, the things hellish eyes gleaming red in the ruddy light, the creature stalked the handful of minstrels and curious onlookers within the grove, fiercely attacking a bard that tried to drive it away.  As ominously as it had appeared, the creature vanished again into the darkness.

Player characters present for this unnerving confrontation will probably intervene.  The wolf is not a natural animal, instead, he is an Aelfen adept of the Wood-Guardians seeking to bring the Sire of Golden Leaves practice of sharing information with humanity to an end.  As a magical shapeshifter, the creature is much more powerful, intelligent, and resourceful than one might expect from a wolf.  Unless the game master prefers, the creatures bite doesnt carry the curse of lycanthropy.  His shapeshifting power is entirely magical, granted through a magical wolfs skin the Elf wears.  Of course, player characters unaware of that fact may experience a few sleepless nights, haunted by the fear that they will soon face the lycanthropes dreaded curse.

Fools Rush In
No tale reached the villages ears to clarify this mystery:  Where had the elves gone?  Within the common room of the Kings Arms Inn, a group of bards and players (actors, not PCs!) wrangled long into the night, but none could explain these unnerving events.  Emboldened by drink and haphazardly armed, a band of these foolhardy men rashly headed into the forest, daring to seek out the elves within and discover what had prevented their appearance at the grove.

Some of the villagers, knowing that the elves might well be offended by such trespass, gathered a group to pursue these drunken rogues.  Made up of local men well-known to the elves, several of the pursuing band had dealt with the elves in the past and were familiar with their tongue.  Before they could find their quarry, these men were set upon by feral Wood-Guardians of the Aelfenkind, warriors that struck at them with mad fury, uttering threats in the Elvish tongue, but with such strange phrasing and idiom that they were almost incomprehensible to the fleeing men.  The routed villagers found no sign of the mixed band of minstrels and players that had entered the wood, and it is feared that they may have fallen afoul of the bellicose elves.

It is always possible that the player characters may try to convince the drunken fools to stay out of the wood or they may attempt to join the group following them.  While this is written assuming that they become involved after the locals are routed, it really matters very little.  If a band of heroes comes along, they are likely to keep the minstrels and their hangers-on from meeting a sticky end, but theyll certainly be kept busy preventing it.

The villagers hope that someone can help untangle this mystery:  If the player characters havent entangled themselves in the situation yet, the villagers will ask for their help discovering what has gone wrong and restoring harmony between the elves and men.  They are able to provide a rough map that shows approximately where the Court of Golden Leaves can be found.

The Pilgrimage of the Golden Leaves
The peasant folk have many tales of the Aelfen folk and their uncanny ways, but little do they know of the politics of the Aelfen courts.  Closely held are the secrets of the Fae, and it is perilous for the children of men to delve into them.  While the Court of Golden Leaves offers friendship to the lands of men, other groups within the woodland are much less friendly with the younger races.  One such group is the warrior brotherhood known as the Wood-Guardians.  These warriors would have the Aelfen courts break off all contact with races they view as dangerous, destructive marauders.  Normally, their hostile views are largely irrelevant, as their forested dominions have little contact with human lands.  Unfortunately, the Aelfen Court of the Golden Leaves has been forced by ancient custom to journey far from their lands:  Every man, woman, and child of their court has traveled to a distant battlefield, where they will commemorate the ancient fall of the necromancer Driemord, slain by the houses progenitor, the legendary hero Ehlan Giltleaf.  All have sworn an oath that they will remember their ancestors heroism, and recount the tale of his deeds whenever a new high priest is chosen to serve the mysterious Aelfen deities revered by their house.  The courts ceremonies honoring the ancient hero and the travel required together require over a fortnight.  During the courts absence, their halls were left empty, the Aelfen folk securing all that was truly valuable and counting on the Aelfen folk of neighboring courts to watch over their homes.

The customs of the Elves dictate that their rites be kept secret from the members of other sects, so they did not discuss the matter with the human villagers. 

In their absence, a quite different and less amiable band of elves has taken it upon themselves to defend the Elvish Lands from the aggression of their human neighbors.  They observed the minstrels intrusion into their neighbors lands, but did not interfere until the musicians had entered the untenanted treetop halls of the Court of the Golden Leaves.  Rather than warn the foolish men, they allowed them to enter the sacred hall of the Courts ancestors, where their prying found notes and drafts of the Elves secret religious ceremonies, documents left behind when the elves departed on their pilgrimage.

Although any items of true value were hidden away, they felt free to rifle through the place, discovering notes and other items used in the elves rituals. 

The soldiers of the Wood-Guardians had hoped that the humans would profane their neighbors secret shrine.  They easily captured the men with the proof of their intrusion, their leader promptly ordered that the fools be executed.  They await their deaths, kept alive so that the other elves can hear their statements upon their return.

The Wood-Guardians hope to end their neighbors traffic with humanity.

They have obscured the trails, altered marks, a simple map is inadequate to find the elven village. Those who fail to recognize the snares of the enchanted wood will encounter ambushes of the feral elves.

Those overcoming the elves will discover strange and archaic documents.  Seemingly the work of a powerful necromancer, they threaten madness and death.

The Mystery of the Necromancers Fate

The Path of the Future

This plot is based on a plot idea suggested by the Add A Twist Brain Trust:  Moonhunter, Dozus, Ria Hawk, and Dark_Dragon.  I hope that I have done their ideas justice.

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