Ever Woken Up After Nearly Dying?
The party wakes/untrances/stops studying and gets ready after their no good exploding day. The knocking at the door has gone down to a pathetic pace, clearly the work of an exhausted yet compelled party. The party goes out the door they came in and tries to loop around behind whoever is at the door.
The end of the hallway opens up to a large cavern lit by fungus and covered in briars. They are difficult to move through without incurring some damage so the party takes it carefully. They see the three goblins that were at the door, still knocking, and try to sneak past but to no avail. "Hey, you! After them!" Nox speaks up, "We don't want to fight. Just show us where Belak is and we'll go." The goblins scoot around the perimeter and positions themselves southerly. "No way, you gotta stay here!" The party thinks a moment, and tries to make a show of giving in. "Okay," Nox continues, "We'll stay. Can you meet us here in a day to take us to Belak?" A good social roll later and the goblins agree, receding into the briars and saying, "Tomorrow, here!" They wait until the goblins are no longer visible and continue south.
The cavern is difficult walking. In the distance is barely visible a twisted tree-like shape, clearly the Gulthias tree. Erky exclaims, "There it is! We must hurry and kill it!" His voice is rewarded with a silent smack from a nearby twig blight. Erky fires back and combat ensues. Fire, necrotic energy, and scared flames fill the dark of the cavern. Tol stares intently at approaching blights. More and more crawl out of the briar but the party is able to rebuff them. It was quite a display. Onward they go.
The party approaches what look to the ruined walls of some rectangular building long destroyed. In the center of the clearing is the Gulthias tree, flanked by three human figures. One brown robed druid stands in the middle, beckoning to the party, the man and woman to his right and left featuring skin that looks like the bark of the tree behind them. The man in the middle shouts, "Stop, you know not what you do! I am Belak, the outcast who dared to dabble a power stronger than myself!"
Capra steps forward, "What's going on with those two?" She motions toward the man and woman near Belak. "They have been taken by the Gulthias tree and have been reborn anew. They now serve the tree and attend to its whims with me. We are here to spread the tree to every corner of the earth. You would be useful as compost, but perhaps you would like to join in service of the tree?" Capra, seeing an opportunity, agrees to be transformed. "Wonderful, lay by the tree and let it engulf you completely. Your pain will be minor as the hours long process undergoes." As Capra is rethinking her deceit, Erky explodes into an unintelligible mess of prayer and exclamation about Sune and beauty and whatever. The DM really dropped the ball there.
Nox tries throwing the weird potions that fuses you with a twig blight potion at Belak but unfortunately the man with a shield is able to bat the projectile out of the way. So, the spells begin to fly. Belak now has barkskin and woman dressed in finery steps forward to miss whatever spell she fired at the party. They notice a ring on the woman's finger, identifying her as Sharwyn Hucrele, the other missing sibling. Belak shouts, "Braford defend the tree!" The once paladin runs forward, brandishing his blade. Erky steps forward to take an action but is met by Belak's pet giant front. It immediately swallows him, and Erky struggles to free himself. Capra starts firing firebolts and Nox misses some guiding bolts. Tol spots the black fruit of the tree and prepares to jump.
One mental realignment later Tol has grabbed the fruit from its place 30 feet up the tree. Midair, he turns Ogre and lands behind Belak, pushing him forward. Braford steps forward to deflect Tol's might blows and returns with one of his own. Braford's sword smashes into Tol's body with a deafening thud and rocks fly from Tol's body. Capra gets wise and targets the tree with a rain of fire, doing massive damage and drawing Belak's ire. "What have you DONE?"
Sharwyn misses another spell, Belak attempts to entangle Nox and Capra's copies of herself but fails, Braford keeps targetting Tol. Poor Erky crawls out of the frog just to be swallowed again. Sharwyn's magic missiles get absorbed by Capra's on reaction shield, but are then twisted by wild magic and launched even stronger at the frog, killing it and freeing Erky. Nox unfortunately has trouble with landing guiding bolts and switches to swinging her scythe.
Erky is free at just the right time to see Tol pound his arm into the tree, and Capra to launch a burning Chromatic Orb right at the three, finally cutting through and crashing it down, burning completely. Belak screams in frustration as Braford, Sharwyn, and Nox finish him off, once and for all. Braford and Sherwyn both still have the bark skin though, and continue the fight.
Braford meets his demise at a raging ogre sized hit from Tol's arm. Just before dying, he is able to mutter to Tol, "Keep my sword." So Tol takes up the sword and is struck by its innate power. Sharwyn is able to break free of the corruption long enough to tell the party to kill her and bring her ring back, as there's nothing she can do now. Nox hatches a plan. With one hand she snuff's Sharwyn's life, and the other she revivifies her on the spot. The bark skin crumbles away and she is free of the tree's influence.
Erky, having completed Sune's calling, feels a surge of new power. As Capra and Nox bicker over reviving Braford or not, Erky walks over and brings him back himself. Barely able to stand, Braford begins the journey back with Erky and Sharwyn. The party follows suit, but not before looting Belak's body for a wand, some scrolls, and some potions.
The journey back is slow. Along the way they meet Calcryx one final time. She speaks to Nox, thanking her for the food and the good time. She begins to leave and says, "I'll remember you," and is gone.
The rest of the journey is quiet, and the trip up in a bucket to the Yawning Portal is as chill as a trip in a really big bucket can be. The party is met with murmers of a dragon flying through the tavern, and a worried woman who asks them about the Hucrele children. Once Erky brings the rescues forward, Sharwyn thanks the party once again and asks them to stay until her mother thanks them properly. The rescue crew leaves, and the party gets to settle into a victorious night at the Portal.