While the bulk of the party continued down the offshoot passage of the Stump Mine and into Fentomir’s study, Hugh went to investigate what Zoltar’s owl saw on the surface. While heading up from the mine and out into the rolling landscape above, he attempted to disguise himself as an elf, and did an rather impressive job of it—although it was ultimately not quite convincing enough.
When the figures the owl had originally spotted finally came within shouting distance after nearly half an hour of walking, he found them dismounted from their horses, examining something on the ground. He began playing a triumphant and rousing tune on his trombone, immediately calling the attention of the olive-cloaked figures ahead of him. He continued playing the ‘bone and marching forward when one of the figures nudged a smaller one and nodded toward Hugh. He continued playing as the smaller one sprinted straight at him, full tilt. He continued playing as he recognized the sprinting figure was a female elf. He played right up until the moment she leaped at him from 15 feet away, so that her body was parallel with the ground, and until she tackled him, snatching the trombone out of his hands, knocking out one of his teeth in the process. She then shout-whispered at him to “shut the fuck up” in elven. Apparently Hugh’s disguise was good enough to fool the woman at first blush—however, he rather spoiled the moment when he grabbed her by the crotch, prompting her to punch him savagely in the nose. “Do that again and I’ll feed you this blasted instrument!” she growled, this time in Common.
In the exchange that followed, Hugh learned that the elves had been tracking a troll that had stolen something from them—something that apparently was very dear to them—and were very close to finding their quarry. The woman—he did not ask her name—advised him to leave, and, surprisingly, he followed her advice, after conjuring a perplexing illusion of a juggling hellhound, and playing four quick notes meant to inspire the lady in the battle ahead.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party explored the area beyond the study. They shouted for Fentomir into the passageway beyond, to which they heard the reply of shrieking bats, but nothing else. They found a small barracks, which was empty. Then they walked down a long corridor with caged animals on either side. At the end of the corridor, where they could see daylight streaming in, Fentomir was waiting for them. He raised a fist-sized stone that glowed blue in the light, and suddenly Oleta began walking dreamily and silently towards him. The rest of the party stood motionless as she reached him and began caressing his breastplate, and just when it seemed they might kiss, Fentomir spun her around and put a dagger to her throat with one hand, while with the other hand he unlatched a gate next to him, and began backing away, up toward the daylight. As he did so, Floofles successfully cast a charm on him, and he released Oleta. Oleta, however, was still enamored with him, and continued to follow. In the next second, a giant boar burst out of the gate Fentomir had just unlocked, and charged the first person he saw, which was Floofles. With a running start, the beast nearly killed the sorcerer in a single blow, but before he’d even hit the ground, Floofles rebuked the beast with hellfire. In the midst of the boar’s squeals, Roscoe managed to charm the creature, initiating a first-of-its-kind five-way charm-a-thon: Oleta charmed by Fentomir; Fentomir charmed by Floofles; the boar charmed by Roscoe. Locke conjured a flaming mace to intimidate Fentomir into speaking rather than fighting.
This was the scene Hugh Mann Goodwill stepped in on: Oleta fawning over a red-cloaked elven stranger in heavy leather armor, staring silently at mace made of fire waving menacingly in front of him; Floofles F. Poofus lying on his back, clutching his stomach, which was bleeding freely; a gigantic boar looming over Poofus, frozen in the act of goring Locke in the side; Roscoe making his eyebrows dance in the boar’s direction; Zoltar and Holitrice several paces back, looking bewildered. And all of them quite silent.
It was at this moment that Floofles stirred, enraged at the pain, and at the nerve of this idiot beast to lay even the slightest touch on his person. However, somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he knew that something strange, something special, and something very delicate was happening here; he could either let it play out, or he could crush it, utterly and brutally. There was no hope of remaining calm, but there was hope of remaining smart. And so Floofles bashed his own face in with his quarter staff and lay flat on the ground, nearly unconscious. At the same time, Oleta came to her senses and sheepishly retreated several paces away from Fentomir.
Now the negotiations could begin.
The party learned that:
- Fentomir knew of the party.
- He knew of the curses that had been placed on them.
- He had the power to trigger them, to an extent.
- He did not have the power to lift them.
- He recognizes that the citizens of Astrif are, at least to an extent, under some sort of control.
- He does not care or believe that is an excuse.
- The elves in Red Cloaks and the elves in Green Cloaks have a relationship.
- That relationship seems to be deteriorating, because, to some extent, “they are not willing to do what needs to be done” (Fentomir’s words).
- Fentomir is heading to Cliffwood; he believes Felsamora is there.
- The Party (minus Hugh) gains 500xp each for finding Fentomir’s study, killing Petey, and decoding the messages in record time.
- The Party gains 750xp each for diffusing what might have been an exceedingly nasty situation with Fentomir and the Boar and learning more about Epheria.
- Hugh Mann Goodwill gains 600xp for discovering the Stumps and making brief, perhaps fruitless contact with the Green Cloaks all on his lonesome.