The Party rushed into the Tangleroot Forest to save and rescue the unconscious Sasha before she became a meal to any of the creatures that inhabited the forest. Both Kobe and Takoda were quite familiar with the forest, as Kobe had made several scholarly excursions into the forest, and Takoda often ventured into the forest to revitalize his hunting skills. Under the wisdom of both Kobe and Takoda, the group agreed that following the river just north of the forest's entrance was the best course of action to find the girl.
The party was first greeted by a swarm of tangle spiders hiding beneath the roots of the forest floor, which was unusual to both Kobe and Takoda because, while Tangle Spiders had been known to exhibit swarm tactics, these arachnids rarely dared to attack Humans, let alone seven of them. Regardless, they were quickly dispatched. As the party approached the river, they were attacked this time by a clutch of unusually aggressive dread octopi, which were promptly slain by the rescue party.
After travelling a short distance along the riverbank, the party found a suspicious artifact washed up on the side of the river, tangled in the roots that bordered the water. As they fished it from the river, both Scarlett and Timmy recognized that it was a jacket that they knew belonged to Sasha. This discovery confirmed that Sasha had been washed down deeper into the forest, and they continued to follow it further into the forest's heart.
Following the river, they discovered a natural growth of roots that spanned from one side of the river to another. If Sasha had been flowing down the river, it might be possible that she was able to catch herself on this natural bridge, and may have pulled herself to safety nearby. Because they had not found her yet, the party decided that she might be trapped on the other side of the river. Using his natural agility, Takoda volunteered to carry a rope across the bridge that would make crossing the roots safer for the rest of the party. As Takoda deftly maneuvered from one root to another, he was able to spot a nest of Dread Octopi sleeping within the roots. Not skipping a beat, he quickly jumped over rock and root, and he landed safely on the other side of the river. Securing the rope to a tree, Takoda beckoned for the rest of them to cross the perilous river.
One by one, they all followed the rope across the bridge, and Richard secured the rope around himself so that the party could retrieve the rope once they had crossed. All was going well until Suirei accidentally mistook a Dread Octopi tentacle for a root, and fell screaming into the black water. Like something from a far-away fantasy, the purple-haired girl found herself completely surrounded by slimy, writhing tentacles. Fortunately, Suirei was not helpless, and easily fended off her attackers, as her friends quickly slew the preoccupied monsters. After the ordeal, the party safely crossed the river, with Suirei soaked, but none worse for wear.
Once across, they found themselves at the entrance to a large foreboding cave, whose sharp outer rocks reminded the party of the maw of a gigantic beast. Kobe broke out his iron lantern to help see into the cave, but the cave was too dark and too deep to see past the first few dozen feet. Against better judgement, young Timmy loudly called out to his sister, "SASHA!!?" As his voice echoed throughout the cave, his yell was returned not by his sister's voice, but by a deep, guttural growl. Fearing that Sasha was in fact, not alone inside this cave, Snake volunteered his natural sneaking skills to explore the cave.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the only thing inside the cave was in fact, a gigantic, sleeping bear. This hulking beast was far, far larger than anything either Kobe or Takoda had seen while exploring the Tangleroot Forest. Ultimately, the group made the grim decision that it would be safer to kill this beast while it was sleeping, than for Sasha to accidentally wander into this cave and become the bear's next meal. Both Snake and Takoda readied knives and arrows and preemptively attacked the sleeping giant. Instantly the bear roared into lucidity, standing well over fifteen feet tall and attacked the readied adventurers with its obsidian claws and blood-soaked teeth. After a gruesomely exhausting fight, the rescue party defeated the giantic cave bear, and claimed its hide and claws as trophies.
Making their way outside the cave, the group decided to backtrack and continue heading down the river to the center of the forest. While passing under the dark branches above, the group was able to notice odd rustling in the trees just above the path they were about to traverse. Making little hesitation, Takoda drew his bow and fired an arrow into the rustling foliage. The arrow struck true, and pierced into what appeared to be a gigantic seed pod. Kobe and certainly Takoda had never seen something like this in the Tangleroot Forest prior to this excursion, and upon closer inspection, the seed pod had what appeared to be a massive, unblinking eye. Their examination was cut short as more of these seed pods dropped from above, unleashing swaths of lashing tentacles at the party. Defeating them with little effort, Kobe was then able to more closely examine these strange beings.
Being a man of the arcane arts himself, Kobe quickly deduced that dark magic was behind the existence of these creatures. Those who were most unfamilliar the man's arcane knowledge, namely Takoda and Richard, inherently distrusted the friendly scholar, but based on what had just attacked them, were willing to believe his explanation. Now with dark sorcery thrown into the equation, it was absolutely imperative that they find the missing girl, sooner before later.
After treading carefully about the dark forest, the party finally approached the heart of the forest, the Great Tree. The Great Tree's roots sprawled before them, each root as thick as the trunks of the tangleroot trees that made up the forest. A certain uneasiness crept through both Takoda and Kobe as they heard tangle spiders skittering about beneath the roots below. Despite their trepidation, the party moved forward, leaving the river to explore around the Great Tree. As soon as they entered the clearing, the entire party felt the malevolent presence permeating the once holy glade.
As they neared the tree, the forest violently shook, the roots under their violently shifting, as though the entire forest were in pain. Before the party could react to this bizzare phenomenon, a giant horde of tangle spiders burst from underneath the roots to attack the party again, this time in far more numbers than the swarm that had greeted the party at the forest's entrance. The swarming spiders quickly overtook the party, biting and stinging relentlessly. Despite the agonizing pain of hundreds of spider envenomations, the party was again able to fend off the spiders, and the arachnids that remained disappeared back into the shadows of the roots below. The party continued to explore the trunk of the Great Tree.
As the party searched the base of the Great Tree, they finally came upon Sasha, lying unconscious on one of the Great Tree's roots, bathed in a beam of pale moonlight. Before moving to save the poor girl, everyone halted at the sight of a gigantic hooded figure standing above her. The hooded figure stood over ten feet tall, cloaked in a mass of swirling shadows, although he seemed to be more preoccupied with his business at the Great Tree rather than the seven warriors that stood before him. As the party stood frozen, they watched the hooded figure extend his shrouded hand toward a hole bored into the tree, a hole created not by mechanical means, but by dark, corrupted magics. Reaching into the tree, the figure ripped a pulsating green orb from the core of the Great Tree, causing the tree to quickly wither into decay.
With his prize in hand, the cloaked figure immediately noticed that he had gathered an audience for his nefarious task. Casting his gaze upon the party, the only portion of his visage visible to the party were his glowing purple eyes, that flickered like dark flames. Upon realizing the identity of those who stood before him, the hooded figures eyes turned from surprise to shock, and almost to fear.
"You!" he exclaimed, his voice like a deep, dull rumble. "How did you find me so soon?! I should have more time yet!"
He studied the party, the hooded figure noticed that none of the adventurers seemed to recognize him. His visage drifted from shock, back to a calm smugness as he noticed Sasha lying unconscious near his feet.
"'Ah, I see now... You're here for this girl.. Well,isn't this an unexpected turn of events? I'll crush the lot of you before you become a threat!"
The Dark figure bellowed his threat as he reached his cloaked hand out of the moonlight into the darkness. Appearing to physically grasp the darkness that surrounded the forest, the dark figure thrust a billowing black mass into the heart of the Great Tree, causing an echoing scream to explode throughout the forest. The tangleroots surrounding the Great Tree uprooted themselves, thrashing about as though they had just suffered immeasurable pain. As the shadowed figure removed his hand from the Great Tree, black, veiny tendrills spilled out from the wound, wrapping themselves around the tree and cascading down to its roots.
The monster cackled maniacally at the completion of his foul deed, and impossibly black clouds spilled forth through the sky, blocking out the moonlight. Now thrust into pitch black darkness, Kobe immediately drew out his lantern and lit it, bathing the party in light once again, but Sasha and the hooded figure both had dissapeared. The monster's insane laughter began again, this time from behind the adventurers.
The hooded figure now had the unconscious Sasha unceremoniously draped across one of his arms, and he roared at the party. "You will never leave this forest alive!" The nearby darkness swirled around the dark figure, disappearing him from sight, and in less than an instant, he and Sasha were gone. As the party stood there, the roots beneath them began to pulsate, fueled by whatever dark energy the dark one had used to contaminate the Great Tree.
With their mission ultimately a failure, the heroes realized their current task was to escape the forest with their lives. Despite the objections from Suirei and Takoda, the party decided to take a different route from the one they had used to enter the forest, hoping there would be a shortcut within the darkened forest.
Before they barely had any time to run, the all too familiar skittering of tangleroot spiders surrounded the party, even louder than before, escalating to a deafening roar. Instantly thousands of tangleroot spiders burst forth from the roots beneath them, as though every spider that had ever existed in this forest was now trying to kill the weary adventurers. It was a grueling battle, and certainly one not without cost. In the face of death, the assassin, Snake, gallantly sacrificed his own life for the good of his allies, giving his own life to save the life of the ranger, Takoda. Not giving his life in vain, the party barely managed to drive off the invading swarm, and it seemed like the remaining spiders had finally given up on trying to consume the travelling party of seven.
Once the fight had ended, the party was able to resuscitate the dead assassin and continue their escape. Running for dear life, the entire forest seemed to try to in some way, crush, kill, maim, and slaughter the heroes. Roots sprung to animation from the dark figure's evil magic, lashing and whipping the adventurers. Dark roots uprooted trees and attempted to crush the party as they passed, but Timmy and Scarlett would have none of that. Reducing tangleroot trees to splinters with mighty swings of their weapons, the party fled the forest before it could kill them.
Again, showing her unwanted attraction towards all things tentacle-shaped, Suirei was the unfortunate victim of a trap laid by the forest. Dark, corrupted vines exploded from the roots beneath her, ensnaring her as smaller tangleroot trees uprooted themselves, and began shambling towards the party, illuminated by terrible red glowing eyes. Despite their successful ambush, the party was able to quickly dispatch them, and continue making good their escape from this now evil forest.
However, it seemed as though the adventurers were not the only ones attempting to escape the forest. Just near the edge of the forest, the party encountered a pack of terrified wolves, spooked into an aggressive battle frenzy. Thanks to some quick eyes from various members of the party, the wolves proved to be no threat to the brave, specifically bravely retreating, warriors. After slaying the pack of hungry wolves, the heroes could just make out the entrance to the forest. They were almost free of this nightmare.
It was no surprise that leaving the corrupted forest would not come so easily, as the forest shook more violently than it ever had. Corrupted tendrils of dark magic wrapped themselves around three, four, at least five of the trees that surrounded the entrance to the forest. The dark tendrils ripped the massive trees from the ground, twisting and forming them into a gigantic monster. A massive, hulking monster created from the remains of tangleroot trees once drenched in the life energies of the Great Tree stood before the party, and they prepared themselves for what they knew would be the most perilous fight of their lives.
Their assumption proved to be correct. The Treant attacked without hesitation, using its terrible claws and massive legs to claw and smash the heroes. Starting the battle hard and fast, Kobe quickly cast a powerful curse upon the Treant, calling dark spirits to tear apart the beast from the inside, and Suirei warped time itself around Takoda, allowing him to fire arrows faster than the eye could see. Not wasting Suirei's gift, Takoda fired volley after volley of arrows at the beast's heart, splintering the armor that made up the creature's chest.
The fight seemed to be going in the heroes' favor until the Treant began summoning seedling minions from deep within the forest. Paying no mind to the lives of its servants, the Treant picked up and threw its seedling minons at the party, exploding as they hit the ground and bombarding the party with dark energy. Both Kobe and Takoda fell from the assault, and young Timmy was also looking worse for wear. The battle was not without hope, as Timmy made made one brutal strike after another upon the wooden monster, hammering the giant foe with all his strength. Now cracked and dripping black sap, the Treant grew engraged from the young warrior's attacks. Lifting its massive foot, the Treant stomped with the force of a dozen falling boulders directly on top of the young child, leaving him broken, bloody, and defeated on the floor of the forest.
Now the fight was up to Richard, Suirei, Snake, and Scarlett, all whom of which were showing clear signs of fatigue from their hardship in the forest. To make matters worse, the Treant begain sprouting vines all over its body, and the vines feverishly began repairing the wounds inflicted on the giant monster. Knowing that they needed to end this fight before the creature regenerated itself, Richard charged the monster, slamming his shield into the creature's body with all his might. The creature reeled back, stunned and barely alive. Both Snake and Scarlet wasted no time hesitating, and both drove their blades directly into the creature's skull. The monster bellowed in pain as its wooden visage splintered before their assault, pouring dark corrupted sap all over the forest floor. Now that the beast was crippled and near death, Suirei called all that remained of her magical powers for one final attack and blasted the last of the creature to splinters. They had succeeded. Recovering their fallen, the surviving heroes quickly escaped the forest and hastened back to Shade's Veil.
Bloodied and weary, the party approached the entrance to the village. Before they had a chance to recover from their terrifying ordeal, familiar black shadows swirled before them, and from the black mass stepped the hooded figure still clutching the girl it had kidnapped just after casting the dark spell corrupting the forest.
"I should have known you would survive such feeble creatures... No matter, I will simply kill you myself. I will see this tormenting Cycle ended!Do not fear, mortals, your deaths will be swift." The dark figure spoke calmly, waving a robed hand near the darkness that surrounded him, drawing the shadows around him into a pulsating black orb above his upturned palm.
Those that could still fight drew their weapons and attempted to stop the dark sorcerer, but a mere wave of his robed arm sent his attackers flying backwards. Helpless against the demon's magic, they could only watch in terror as the dark orb grew to the size of a large melon, pulsating menacingly and dripping with dark liquid shadows. The shadowed figure faced his palm towards the party, and he fired the black orb at the center of them. The orb impacted with the ground between them, causing a massive explosion of dark energy, sending all seven of the adventurers flying like children's ragdolls.
"Mwuahahaha!" The dark one bellowed. "All too easy. As the boot crushes the insect, now I end your pitiful existence from this world." Mocked the dark creature as his calmly made his approach to the unconscious heroes, ready to silence them forever.
Before the monster could take naught but a single step, a beam of searing light burst forth from the doors of the village inn, blasting the dark creature square in the chest, and knocking him back several feet. Clutching his robes, the creature screamed in a mixture of pain, anguish, and rage as it fell to its knees.
"I shall NOT let you kill them, Nar'ish'nel!" An old man's voice bellowed from the inn, and clutching a knarled old staff, Old Nel emerged from the building.
"YOU!" The shadow exclaimed, "So it is by your hand that these humans have crossed my path.It appears as though I am not the only one to violate the ancient ways and interfere with this cursed Cycle."
"You gave me no choice, demon." Nel sharply retorted.
If the shadow posessed a mouth under its dark cloak, it would have quickly turned to a sneer. "'I never agreed to be a pawn in your insufferable plan, Old One." The dark one roved,"I refuse to be part of your, precious Cycle," spat the creature, showing clear disdain for the words it spoke, "and I will see it ended!"
Old Nel shook his head in disappointment. "You partake in a fool's errand, dark one."
"That may be... But I'll be a fool free of you and all of your wretched kind!" And with that final remark, the dark figure melded into the shadows and vanished, taking the still unconscious Sasha with him.