This is a summary of the story arc, “The Decay of Sosaria” which began towards the end of June 2014 and is ongoing. It follows Delbert, an ecologist who struggles to find courage in the face of the pending death of the world, and the unlikely allies he meets along the way.
Please check back regularly as the story unfolds. For the introductory fiction for this arc (as well as the epilogue for a previous one), please read “Journey’s End.“
It has been widely accepted as fact that the ecological disaster that turned Yew to a putrid swamp some years ago was caused by the casting of a Spell of Decay. Once cured, it seemed that the threat was over to Yew. This, as you have probably already guessed, proved to be untrue.
This story begins with a young girl, Bethany, bursting into Empath Abbey late one evening, screaming for help. Her brother, Peter, had been taken by something in the woods – something she had no words with which to describe. Yew had recently seen a number of torrential downpours, which seemed to have given rise to aggressive mud creatures. It was assumed that one of these creatures must have been responsible for Peter’s disappearance. The truth, however, would prove to be far worse.
With the help of Delbert, a Royal Ecologist dispatched by the King to study the impact of the storms, a group of brave volunteers conducted a search for Peter. During their search of the woods they found pools of a noxious green slime – not unlike that which had appeared in Yew so many years ago. They found woodland creatures, too, which seemed to be infected by the slime. They also found Peter, but not as he once was. No longer a young man, his limbs had grown long, and he was clad in bark as though it were armor. He was as much a terrible Reaper as he was man. Under attack, the search party had no choice but to destroy him.
In the aftermath, Delbert tasked the group with locating all of the pools of slime in Yew. Having completed this survey, yet another surprise revealed itself – The Wodewose. The legend of the Wodewose tells of a being that was once a man or an elf, but now resembled something more primitive, and feral. Large, with an severe stoop and a knowing gaze, the Wodewose served as a guardian of the forests of the land. He had been watching Delbert and his companions, as they had studied the pools of slime. It was the Wodewose that revealed the truth – Sosaria was dying.
Without Death, there can be no Life, the Wodewose explained. Yet, when either Life or Death grew too powerful, it threatened the existence of all. The spell that had brought about the Decay did not create it, but merely brought it forth to the surface – it exists always, and it was once again reaching up, but this time it would consume all facets of the world. This is what the green slime was – tendrils of Decay rising from the center of Sosaria. The Wodewose explained that it could once again be put in check, but it would involve traveling deep below the surface of the land. To do so, all of the pathways the Decay had created needed to be located. It confirmed the first to be in Yew. It left Delbert and his companions to discover the others, and to summon him once the job was done.
The Mad Gardener of Tokuno
Now, it could be said that Delbert was a coward of a man, and frankly, this would be true. But he also acted intelligently (if not usually confidently). Hearing rumors of strange plants growing in Tokuno, he sent his group of adventurers there first. It was there that the group learned of a seemingly crazed woman who was growing a garden on the coast of Homare-jima. They also met the first in a series of unlikely allies – Klog the Orcish Mage. Klog, being a scholar (weird, right?), was also interested in this woman’s efforts at creating new plants. He led the group to the woman, but was shocked to find someone from his past. She was Britannian, and had once worked for Wren the Florist – the very same florist whose prized flower garden was eaten by Klog and his brothers. It seemed Wren took his wrath out on his assistant, and this poor woman lost her mind. Somehow, she came to be in Tokuno and had found a large pool of Decay. She noticed the affects it had on any plants nearby (they either died or turned animated and aggressive) and decided to plant a garden there.
Enraged at the sight of Klog, she dove into the Decay and emerged as an even more twisted version of herself. With thorny vines for hair and poisonous barbs for fingers, she attacked those gathered. Aided by other Decay infected beasts and plants, she fought with a fierce rage. It would not be enough to defeat the adventurers she faced, however, and like Peter she was defeated. Still curious about the nature of the Decay, Klog agreed to keep watch over its appearance in Tokuno and the adventurers returned to Yew, where Delbert awaited (fearing the worst, of course).
The Lord of Ilshenar
With two of the surfaced Decay locations found, Delbert sent his group of volunteers to Ilshenar to search out the next. Sadly, due to injury, Delbert himself could not accompany them. Once again, however, our stalwart group of adventurers found an ally – a pixie (whose name, sadly, escapes me at the moment but will be added soon). The pixies, being in-tune with nature, are quick to notice anything amiss. This is particularly true when it comes to Lord Oaks, their guardian. She informed the group that Lord Oaks had turned violent, and strange, and had moved away from the forest to the ruins of the machine-Blackthorn’s castle. Arriving at the site, the adventurers had their suspicions confirmed – Lord Oaks had been infected by the Decay, and had gone mad. Summoning all manner of twisted underlings to him, he showed no mercy as he slew a number of our heroes. Once again, however, they triumphed, freeing Lord Oaks from his condition, and securing yet another of the Decay locations.
Later, the friendly Pixie would tell the story of how Lord Oaks came to be. That is a story, however, that will be retold elsewhere.
The Wayward Princess
In a strange turn of circumstances, the next location was discovered by way of a letter from Ter Mur. Delbert held correspondence with Princess Rhista (though she signed the letters as her mother, Queen Zhah) who was concerned with a discovery she had made. Delbert, injured again (or was he hung over? No, that comes later) has no choice but to once again send off his very brave, very patient adventurers – this time to Ter Mur.
Upon their arrival in Ter Mur, there was a bit of confusion on how to proceed. Thankfully, one of the Princess’ attendants noticed them arrive, and was able to help pry the Princess out from under her mother’s watchful eye. Unfortunately, the Princess departed the Royal City too early, without the aid of our heroes, and proceeded south to the desert where she had observed (you guessed it) strange monsters and a large pool of green slime. Concerned, her attendant pleaded with the group to head directly there, which they were obliged to do.
Once there, they found the Princess stranded atop an old stone tower. With an injured wing, she could not fly, and Decay infected monsters threatened to kill her if she should walk out. This battle was even more difficult than the last, but the adventurers were victorious once again. The Princess agreed to keep watch over the area, and to alert them of any more problems. She also passed along a message for Delbert. Upon receipt of this message, he somehow managed to turn even more anxious than normal.
The Time They Went To Malas
A summary of this will come, when I find my notes. Suffice it to say, it reads much like the preceding sections. Delbert was passed out after trying to find some “liquid courage” and thus remained in Luna.
The Valorous Knight
With one final location still to be found, the only facet not yet searched was that of Felucca. Without a clue of where to go, a re-injured (he has a knack for acquiring strange injuries at all the wrong times) Delbert suggested our heroes go to Felucca and ask for help from the man best qualified to offer it – Lord Dupre.
Dupre was not all that hard to find, and after first offering the heroes a duck (free of charge), he led them to the orc caves where he had heard there was (you guessed it) something different about the orcs. Venturing deep into the cave, they found that the Decay had infected the orc’s water source. Surrounded by tougher (and greener) than usual orcs, the heroes cleared the bottom of the cave of threats (including a very nasty orc brute). At this time, a handful of thieves and bandits appeared, intent on taking the lives, and gold, of our heroes. Thankfully, a small tunnel was found that delivered most of them to the surface without harm. Once again, they returned to Yew with good news.
One Final Task
All of the locations found, it was time to summon the Wodewose. It had been working with Delbert on devising a concoction that would neutralize the Decay in the tunnels to the surface, allowing the adventurers access to the inside of the world. Delbert expressed some remorse at not being very capable in a fight (and still smarting a bad left foot..or was it his right arm?). They gave the group a list of ingredients to recover, which they did so in an admirably quick fashion. This task done, the Wodewose asked one more thing of them that day – to defeat the Avatar of Decay, its counterpart which it was forbidden from facing directly as the Avatar of Life. They were, of course, successful.
Confronting the Decay
The time had finally come. The heroes gathered at Yew, only to find Delbert slink off somewhere. The Wodewose, however, took charge and explained that all six of the Decay pools must be neutralized at the same time, and six different groups would take their respective paths down the tunnels and eventually converge at the Source of Decay.
The Wodewose’s potion worked as expected, and the adventurers began their descent. The journey was long and hard as they worked their way through pitch black tunnels filled with things that wanted to eat them. Finally, they arrived at the Source of Decay. There before the fount of life-destroying ooze, the Wodewose explained that the Decay could never truly be defeated, not without also dooming all that is life. Instead, it needed to be put back in check by defeating a more physical manifestation. It walked into the pool, despite the protests of his companions.
When it emerged it was a grotesque and vicious version of the being that had helped them get so far. It stomped and rampaged through the heroes, sending them flying. It was at this moment that the most timid of heroes in our story arrived. Delbert, dressed in ill-fitting armor and armed with a staff carved of Yew charged into the cave’s chamber, aghast at what he saw. It was quickly explained to him what had happened, and sad as he was, he steeled himself for combat.
Stories like this usually end with the heroes winning in the end. This one is no exception as the Wodewose was defeated, and the Decay once again put in check. Sadly, this came at the expense of Delbert – the timid ecologist who finally found his courage in the end. Curiously, though skilled healers were on scene to attempt a reunion between his body and spirit, it could not be done. Nor did his spirit pass on to another realm. Instead, for the moment, it seemed he was trapped.