We begin with the party finishing a short rest, catching our breath next to the scene of the carriage attack. We have two horses and the carriage and intend to set out west after the attackers. While resting we peruse papers in the carriage, including diaries indicating some passengers were headed to Hyrada. The carriage had diverted off the main road to Forks, instead heading west. Passengers were merchant class. We also found some coin and jewels in the false bottom of a chest. Nothing magical.
We jerry-rig bridles and blankets for the horses and head west through the forest, two to a horse. We come to a makeshift bridge across a chasm, abandon the horses, and cross; the fat dwarf nearly tumbles to his death but Kurgaz pulls him up. We’ve been traveling for ~30 min when the forest suddenly falls quiet, and turns a strange green monochromatic tint. Pelaios recalls that this is a feature of the Shadowfell. We proceed.
All sounds and colors fade; the forest itself seems to fade away as an obscuring mist rises around us. We seem to have transitioned into another plane. Ahead we see a clearing with a building, something like a small abbey with a tower, another smaller building to the left. We see a dark doorway in the main long building.
As we proceed, lights come on in the tower and the building; the door appears to open. We hear beautiful music by a famous composer, which somehow seems to lift our spirits above the depression of this plane.
We approach the building. It is a magnificent great hall, with high stained glass windows. On the walls are hundreds of masterwork paintings piled on top of one another. Inside we see two beautifully carved chairs, more like thrones, in front of a stage. On the stage is a beautifully rendered scene of an orchestra playing, in full vivid color, in stark contrast to the depressed monochromatic scene of the rest of this plane.
As we discuss how to proceed, the music stops and the orchestra scene disappears, leaving only an empty dais. A figure stands up from one of the chairs: tall, slender, long black hair, robes, dark skin. Calls himself the Elder. We enter. He knows all our names already. Calls himself a collector of beautiful things, in service of the Queen, here to negotiate on her behalf.
The deal: they will release the five children they kidnapped today (their “guests”). The Queen will take an oath not to kidnap (“recruit”) any more Guild initiates, and pay us each 1200 gp, + 600 gp / year. In return, we must take an oath not to pursue this matter further. The Elder also offers up hags as scapegoats to blame for the children’s disappearances. We must agree to lie to the Guild and the other authorities, blaming the hags and telling no one about the Queen, the Elder, and their plans for the other children.
We discuss, Toran and Pelaios wanting to deal, Kazimir rejecting any deal, Kurgaz not trusting the Elder. Kurgaz also demands the Elder produce the Tinker. Toran starts to negotiate with the Elder (publicly and privately). Eight glowing eyes begin to appear behind the Elder: Quicklings.
When questioned about the other children who were kidnapped, he conjures a scene of a realm deeper in the Shadowfell, showing numerous children relaxing in luxury in a city named Zee. He also brings forth a cart here with three of the five children, sleeping peacefully. We counter-offer: release the three kids, direct us to the other two kids, and we will let him walk away. He refuses: we must agree to lie to the Guild and the authorities about what really happened to the children. On this point he will not negotiate.
The party continues to argue. Toran wants to make a deal to save the kids. Kazimir will not deal with slave traders nor agree to lie. Toran: “How is lying dishonorable? Lying is a tool!”
The scene on the stage changes, now showing two teens imprisoned and tormented by a hag and her minions.
The negotiations degenerate. Kurgaz gives the Elder one chance to walk away. “Do your worst,” he says.
A brutal battle ensues. A Quickling immediately slays all three children. Four Quicklings rush the party, swarming the wizards. The Elder casts Darkness and stabs out of it with swirling short swords, retreating after each attack. We eventually bring down all Quicklings. Toran falls twice and stays down; Pelaios falls but is healed; Kazimir falls twice and stays down; Kurgaz manages to stay on his feat, hasted and berserk. He hacks blindly through the Darkness but his axe eventually finds purchase, and he manages to eviscerate the Elder.
Kurgaz administers the last healing potion to Kazimir, and the party limps into a corner to catch their breath. Toran regains consciousness and the party patches their wounds as best they can.
While they are resting, the party notices that reclining in one of the thrones is a strange girl in some kind of ethereal dream state. We see some form of energy crawling, spider-like, across her skin when the party moves around her…