The Great Forest

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The trees of the forest of Nightdene are ancient beyond the years of man, the ground and glades between their boughs filled with tangled bushes, well-trodden paths, mysterious circles of stones, quiet pools, babbling streams, and occasional forest settlements; and almost everywhere a deep, rich, carpet of leaf-loam lies. The great forest spreads for almost a thousand miles, with much to keep one with the lifespan of even an elf busy with the exploring.
This is no place of myth however, unlike its counterpart the Forest of Sisdene, or the fey Wildwood of the Realms of Dream, but a place where men and women walk, and occasionally the axe of a woodsman is heard upon the margins.
Every now and then when the incursions of loggers become too rapacious, the druids of the forest rouse their allies and drive the greedy intruders away, and for a few generations after such slaughter, the margins of the forest recover, and push back out, and all is quiet again.
Until the loggers return, and the cycle begins again.

An axe weilding unshaven swarthy short man dressed in checked flannel with a knit cap jammed on top of his lumpy head skulks around the periphery of the forest

In a clearing somewhere in the forest, a group of gypsy men are digging with pickaces and shovels.
One of them has a map.

Deeper, deeper, the one with the map urges. If we got the right standing stone this time, the entrance to the tunnel should only be a few feet further down.

On the edge of the forest sits the toymaker's cabin and workshop. Inside, his daughter is laying the table for dinner. It needs a lot of climbing around by her, but her father has made her a padded miniature grappling hook and rope, so that she can scale chairs and tables.

"....Thou diggst....thy....grave thither, folk of the road...."

Eventually, the gypsy men give up at their excavation, having dug down a few feet more.
Wrong standing stone again, one of them grumbles. How many of the things can there be in this forest? Confounded druids.
Shouldering their tools, they abandon the excavation, and head off through the trees.

Blundering through the forest, muttering and mumbling to himself, the gnome who so urgently searched the stalls of the bazaar at last comes upon a thicket, in whose depths he spots the glint of a star. With a shriek of delight, he pulls out a machete, and wielding it two-handed begins to hack his way through the bushes towards his prize...

By a river bank, the short man unlimbers his axe and begins hewing trees

C'est dans dix ans je m'en irai
J'entends le loup et le renard chanter
J'entends le loup, le renard et la belette
J'entends le loup et le renard chanter

L'hiver viendra, les gars, l'hiver viendra
La jument de Michao, elle s'en repentira

La jument de Michao et son petit poulain
Sont passés dans le champ ont mangé tout le foin

With a gleeful cry, the gnome takes the star, activates a taliaman, and teleports away.

Ouch. Sorry. 'taliaman' in that previous post should have been 'talisman'.

Within sight of a stone circle in the depths of the forest, the two apparent elves are standing.
The 'independent' gates are closing - you should hurry dear. Soon the only ways in will be for casual dreamers or through a few heavily guarded sites under *her* control or whose lords have enough power that *she* would effectively declare war on them by opening or closing their gates without asking them.

I wish I could accompany you. But my sacred duties to my goddess call, and my sister had a satyr lover in the woods of Dream once... I may have relatives there with whom I can claim shelter, so long as I do not make too many waves.
Relatives who would not look too snootily down their noses at me for my conversion, that is.
A smile touches her lips.

They share a last, passionate kiss, then part, she departing to the standing stones, and he heading off elsewhere in the forest.

On the outskirts of the forest, the little wooden doll is out in the garden today, helping her father the toymaker to mend the surrounding fence.

Brightly painted wooden soldiers with imitation guns shouldered, each soldier as tall as a man, march around the outside of the fence, on guard for dangers from the forest.

The dark-haired lumberjack glances over at the woodcarver's house as he walks along the trail.

Huh HUH! Les gendarmes des bois! Tres droll!

A wizened figure, wrapped in grey rags and with a hood drawn over his face steps out of the trees, a short way ahead of Jacque. He is about the size of a halfling, and in one hand clutches a stick, upon which he seems to lean heavily.
Hold there, monsieur forester. Will you speak with me in the common tongue?

The lumberjack pauses and grins

But of course, mon vieux. What may this 'umble lomberjacque do for you today, eh?

I need a special beacon fire constructed and lit at a site of power known as 'The Place of The Winds' before the month is out. It is a long way from here, as the hawk flies, but not so far for those able to travel by Omniportal.
Would you know anyone who might be able to assist me in supplying timber for, constructing and lighting such a fire?

The squat burly man laughs, a short barking sound.

Mon vieux you 'ave come to ze right man! I am Blacque Jacque Shellacque, ze mightiest lumberjacque that ever felled a tree! I shall hitch my giant purple pet moose Napoleon to as many logs as you should desire and bring zem up to zis 'place of the Winds.' 'Ow many do you need, and what shall you give me in return?

I simply need a big beacon fire - the bigger the better - to mark a forthcoming alignment of the stars.
I need someone able to employ a certain amount of guile - the place has 'caretakers' who object to use of the place unless it is for the purpose of prophecy or for 'taking counsel with the creatures of the air'.
As to payment, how do you prefer it, monsieur?
Magic items which you are perhaps seeking?

The Grey Wanderer wrote:

Magic items which you are perhaps seeking?

The short man gets a crafty gleam in his eye

Mon vieux all of the above! If zere are guards at zis place perhaps something to, how you say, blend in? Perhaps a Cap of Disguise, or something for me and my moose.

I believe that I could easily acquire a cap of disguise for your own use, but your good moose may require something more difficult to obtain. For now, here are five gold sovereigns for you, monsieur, for your kindness in passing the time of day with me, and I shall hope to call in upon you soon.
He passes a small leather pouch which does indeed contain five lage gold sovereigns to Jacque.
You live not far from here?

Monsieur. The sovereigns are for simply holding this conversation. There will be more to come, later, I assure you.

The Grey Wanderer wrote:

You live not far from here?

The lumberjack shrugs in a quintessential Gallic manner

I 'ave a cottage outside ze forest by ze river Drolo. You may find me zere. Good day, mon vieux.

The lumberjack saunters off humming. Occasionally he tosses his axe into a tree, yanking it back out as he passes.

The wizened figure shuffles off into the trees.

The shadow of a hunting dragon skims across the Great Forest, sending creatures fleeing for cover.

The Grey Wanderer meets with a group of his gypsy comrades, and addresses them with some concern.
We have a problem, my friends. The herald of The First, the master of all masters, has come into play. We must be extra diligent in our efforts, and should you encounter the herald, you must pay him, her, or it extreme respect. Joris, any luck on the hat front yet?
One of the men holds up a cap and grins.
Good work, the Grey Wanderer continues. Whilst I am concerned by the disappearance of the stars and the attacks on our cultist colleagues by those gnomes, which threaten the Fifth Sign, or at least how I would have liked to have interpretted it, the Sixth Sign may be completed in an auspicious manner. If only the Herald of Fire had not got himself removed from proceedings. All I need now is some way to disguise the moose, and sufficient motivation for the man Jacque to see him through...

The gypsy men begin to dig once again, in another part of the forest.

Meanwhile, the Grey Wanderer slowly approaches the cottage by the River Drolo, which Jacque mentioned.

Jacque sits at a cozy log cabin, smoking a long pipe and humming as he sharpens his axe. The river is packed with logs, and an immense purple moose browses on the riverbank.

The Grey Wanderer is approaching the door of the cottage, when darkness rises up over the horizon, swirling across the forest.
He dives for cover in bushes, even though he gueses such to be futile if he is the target.

Darkness ancient and terrible sweeps across the forest, searching back and forth, seeking to catch an elusive scent, before driving onwards and away.

The Grey Wanderer scrambles somewhat undignifiedly out of the bushes, trembling violently.

Jacque was getting up to greet his guest when he dives in the bushes

What is the matter mon vieux? Surely even my ugly face isn't that frightening, eh?

He then sees the swelling darkness and the vast an edritch shape passing in the twilight sky.

Mon Dieu!

It must have been our imagination, friend. At least I hope it was. Or perhaps a little too much of this.
He produces a silver flask, filled with brandy, and takes a pull, then offers it to Jacque.

The Grey Wanderer wrote:

It must have been our imagination, friend. At least I hope it was. Or perhaps a little too much of this.

He produces a silver flask, filled with brandy, and takes a pull, then offers it to Jacque.

Jacque takes a healthy swig

Ah! Brandy! From the Old Lands! Just the thing to chase bad dreams away. Come! I have venison and onions tonight! We shall eat like kings of the forest, no?

Certainly. And I have been talking to some of my friends, he is starting to recover now, and chuckles, and I have a few items for you.
He follows Jacque inside.

The cabin is rough and homey. A rich venison stew bubbles on the stove. The cabin smells of fur, and there are several stretched on the walls drying.

Please mon vieux, have a seat?

Why, thank you monsieur. It is truly pleasant to encounter a man who knows the ins and outs of hospitality.
He gets up onto a chair, and pulls back his hood.
He looks a bit like Yoda, under that, and is often assumed by those who have actually seen his face to be some sort of very old and wizened fey or fey-kin.

Night passes briefly over the Great Forest, then is gone, returned home, taking its prize with it.

Jacque spoons out helpings of venison stew for his visitor and himself into carved wooden bowls. He draws two mugs of red wine from a small keg in the corner. A loaf of dark chewy bread appears on the rough table along with a large hunk of cheese.

So mon vieux, 'ave you come for my famous 'ospitality? Or was zere something else you wished to discuss?

The visitor enjoys the stew for a while, before responding.
Excellent stew, monsieur. I look forward to sampling your cheeses, greatly.
Some friends of mine have busied themselves looking for particlar items, he gives a sly smile, and produces a slightly dusty cap which he lays on the table, and they found this. Apologies that it is a little grubby - I gather that the previous owner required some persuasion to part with it at a price which my friends considered respectable.
I also have here three satchets of dust of illusion, any one of which should be sufficient to treat your fine moose for several hours, unless a wizard or priest with a magic quenching effect should happen by.
He lays one the table three large waxed paper sachets.
I would prefer to leave the rest of this talk until after we have finished this excellent meal, however.
I find it much more amiable to discuss business over a vintage glass of something.

The swarthy lumberjack grins

Of course mon vieux! Take your time! Enjoy! My wine may not be ze finest, but it quenchs ze thirst, no? Salud!

Jacque raises his mug in salute

Ah yes. That is indeed a decent vintage, monsieur.
He puts the tankard down carefully, and rummages in his robes.
I have here, somewhere, ahhh. Here we go.
He produces a silver fox pelt, and puts it on the table.
I wish to have that signal fire lit, monsieur, and I can get more of these. Shall we discuss business now?

Jacque grins and refills the mugs with the rough red

Well, a few bales of these nice pelts will be a start. I shall have my moose Napoleon bring the logs to the place you desire. You have a map, eh?

I have charts of the Place of the Winds, and of the route from these parts to the nearest convenient omniportal which will get you there. He spreads a couple of maps on the table.
As to payment, I can stretch to a couple of bales of such pelts at most, but I may be able to throw in a small cask of excellent quality cognac.

Jacque's visitor c0cks his head suddenly as if at the sound of something beyond Jacque's hearing.
Hmm. If you will excuse me, monsieur, but I am needed elsewhere it seems.
He sighs.
Here are thirty more sovereigns, for your time, in case you do not hear from me again.
He places a pouch which clinks on the table, and makes for the door.

Jacque frowns

But m'sieu, we have not finaized our preparations? Do you still wish me to build ze bonfire?

Not sure whether or not it's fair to continue with this if I'm no longer going to be around. The point of it was that in theory it would get the Flame Troll back from wherever it was if it worked (a very large if, given I could see Jacque getting dogpiled by a bunch of the 'hero' types the second he arrived at the Place of the Winds). Now it looks like if Jacque proceeds, unless you wanted to develop it, it would be for no end result... :(
Sorry to have left an interesting character hanging like this.

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