Finally having trekked through the Mountains of Morpheus to the Circle of Pines, the Sect of Indigo’s principal holy site, the player characters (PCs) spoke to the Guardian of the Wood, one of the magical spirits conjured by the sect. (Such creatures are colloquially called “dryads.”) However, the Guardian, called Vil-Tessa-Soth (“mighty fortification” in Sylvan) proved cryptic and hostile. A fight between the PCs and the Guardian and its pets broke out. Although Morgran’s throat was torn, each PC survived, and the party interrogated Vil-Tessa-Soth, learning the following:
- Mortal interlopers, led by two human women, paid a visit to the Sect of Indigo about three weeks ago. They have slain most — or possibly all — of the druids.
- Somehow, the interlopers were able to corrupt the dryads “body-trees,” which anchor them in the physical world. For this reason, Vil-Tessa-Soth was physically and psychically weakened, as were two other Guardians of the Wood in the area: Shar-Kia-Nith (“night’s starry splendor”) and Fel-Turnus-Sorph (“mountain goat”). Vil-Tessa-Soth conjectured that these two have reverted to an even more atavistic, violent state.
- The druids kept two sets of dwellings in the area: A cluster of sod houses near the Circle of Pines, and a “hidden temple” to to southwest, carved in the inside of a mountain ridge.
At Vil-Tessa-Soth’s behest, the PCs destroyed its body-tree, a large pine tree with the unusual features of a mortal face and hands. Presumably, this put the spirit to rest, decoupling it from material existence.
Setting up camp in the vicinity that night, the PCs encountered a human Sky-born soldier, wounded and wandering lost through the area. He introduced himself as Janduin: also interested in seeking out the Sect of Indigo for their counsel, and advised by his acquaintance, Cicero Woods, to aid Araceli, Cevei, Helm, and Polder if possible. However, Janduin had run afoul of one of the dryads, Shar-Kia-Nith, and not only nearly died in the encounter, but lost two of his friends to its sorcerous influence. Janduin was looking for those two rangers, Josephine and Isaiah, and inadvertently stumbled upon the PCs. However, he could not hope to accomplish much without the PCs’ aid.
The following day, the PCs debated their priorities. Cevei struck off by himself in search of Fiona’s Cairn, leaving Araceli, Morgran, Pip, Sequoia, Janduin at the Circle of Pines. Investigating the druids’ houses, the PCs discovered the aftermath of some significant violence:
- Four humans — presumably druids of the sect — were found killed, their bodies placed inside one house. It appears they died by weapons and arrows, though Morgran also concluded a poison was used to attack at least one of the victims as well. The corpses’ heads were separated from their bodies, and smashed to bony, rotting fragments. The bodies appear to have been decomposing for about three weeks — roughly when a previous group of mortals visited the druids, according to Vil-Tessa-Soth.
- In another house, a large pile of burned papers, books, relics, and equipment, suggesting the willful destruction of much of the sect’s knowledge and property.
- Later, an old diary by one of the sect’s druids. The contents of this Daria’s journal are about eight years old since the last entry, and are personal and often cryptic. However, the PCs were able to take a few hours to decipher them.
The PCs also encountered two humans, presumably Josephine and Isaiah, who attempted to persuade them to give up the injured Janduin. Suspecting that they were indeed charmed by another Guardian of the Wood, Araceli and Morgran instigated a nonviolent confrontation, subduing them in hope of causing their charm to wear off. By nightfall, it appeared that Josephine and Isaiah had returned to their typical selves, and they reunited with Janduin. Araceli suggested the group’s next steps: Avoid Shar-Kia-Nith and Fel-Turnus-Sorph, investigate the sect’s “hidden temple,” and reconvene with wayward Cevei.
Meanwhile, Cevei had traversed over one of the mountain ranges, getting near Fiona’s Cairn, though lost as to his exact location. Taking shelter near a rock outcropping, he spotted a pair of what may be gnolls …
It is presently the early morning of November 4.
According to the interrogated Vil-Tessa-Soth, it and the two other Guardians of the Wood had “orbits” of about a one-mile radius, forming a three-way Venn diagram, with the Circle of Pines at the center. This is consistent with Arawn-Thon-Tha’s account of the area.
Pip and Sequoia were unwell in their dreams, taking sustainable damage.
The PCs are able to avail themselves of what remains of the sect’s belongings in the sod houses. There appears to be nothing extraordinary, but typical food, medicine, and tools are in moderate supply. They also found two unidentified potions, and about 100 gp.
Josephine had dreams of her own. In addition to helping the PCs discover Daria’s diary, she claimed to have premonitory dreams of a woman who had recently visited the druidic sect: a warrior bearing a sword and a birdcage, with the bearing of a “dark knight.”
Information from Daria’s diary:
- The Sect of Indigo is, philosophically and spiritually, a druidic mystery cult: a religious society whose mystical practices and teachings were reserved only for its members, and kept secret from others. Daria’s entries imply that the initiation rites were gruesome and painful, purposefully testing the body and mind that they would be protected from Morpheus’s Grip, the dreaming effect of the Mountains. It appears that the sect believed, with substantial evidence, that the “oneiric power” of the Mountains could be used to enter trance-like states, where they could see into the past, present, and future. However, initiation into the mystery cult apparently entailed numerous bloody rites, by which the mind would somehow become protected from the raw psychic energies of the Mountains of Morpheus.
- In those oneiric trances, mystics could also adopt different shapes, changing into animals, or even plants and the elements. It appears that the pinnacle of this transformation is something called a Sacred Transformation, where a skilled magician becomes able to change seamlessly from natural form to natural form, and become an egoless, ever-changing guardian of the wilderness, free from conscious thought or static form. Daria’s diary implies that attempting this particular magic is very dangerous and risky, as it can go awry. It has not actually been accomplished before.
- There is a reference to a powerful druid named Marten. Apparently he has been dead for about 25 years, but he majorly contributed to the sect’s mystical advancement and practical security.
- As Vil-Tessa-Soth stated, there is a “hidden temple” located somewhere to the southwest of the Circle of Pines. Much as the surrounding woodlands are protected by dryads, which are magical nature spirits, the hidden temple is protected by what are called lampads, or Guardians of the Deep: Nature spirits of the underground, ferocious and temperamental. They carry torches of harmful violet flame, and can pass through solid stone as fish through water.
- There is a reference to “killer mimics” in the sect’s company. No details on this.