Gifts of the Fey


The Gifts of the Fey: The Fey Woods (Campaign Notes-SPOILERS by Thomas Kelly)

Based on Living Greyhawk module GEO1-03a, by Eric Menge and Sholom West

The Army of the Liberation needs rangers to escort some certain Geoff-folk from Hochoch to an olven village tucked away well within the Dim Forest. Ansgar, Bryn, and Boots volunteer for the assignment. They are eager to escape Hochoch for most any reason. A long, hungry winter and the dismal circumstances under which the refugees live have deflated their spirits. An adventure into that dark forest under the promise of spring seems like the cure. Gundoriel, their Grey Elf companion and priest of Correlon Larethian, expresses his reluctance to accompany them on account of rising tensions between the Woods of the Dim Forest and the Greys of Oytwood. Bryn plies him persuasively, “Who will look after us without you?”

The Negligent Nanny

The rangers complete their mission under the ever-night of those shadowed boughs and turn back toward Hochoch. A breath of spring warms the chill from their bones. The heavy crowned trees that give the Dim Forest its name allow little light to penetrate, but in patches, here and there as the trees thin near the edge, warm shafts of sunlight spill through, gladdening the heart. The snows have melted, the rains abated, and the song of birds, returning from southern lands, celebrates the warmer weather. Then comes another sound on the morning air—the sobs of a woman’s inconsolable weeping. Bryn’s vicious war dog, Fang, bounds ahead, and the party follows. They come across a peasant woman seated on the ground at the base of an old ipp tree, her arms wrapped about her knees, her face streaked with tears. Fang nuzzles her gently and whines sympathetically, startling the woman. She shrieks, leaps to her feet, stumbles back from the dog and looks wildly about, surprised to see the three rangers and a Grey Elf regarding her. Ansgar speaks first, “Soft now woman! Put away your tears. What misfortune makes you weep so piteously?”

The young woman, a girl called Alys, explains, “A nanny I am to a young lad called Dyvan. I fell asleep beneath this ipp, under some enchantment I reckon, and the boy wandered off and crossed the Laughing Brook where I dare not go.”

“Fortune is with you. We are hunters and trackers,” Ansgar boasts. “We’ll find your missing lad and return him to you quick enough.” These words console Alys, and she describes the boy, a six-year-old no taller than a halfling, head of curly dark brown hair, green of eyes. Bryn translates all this for Dunglorin who does not speak the common tongue of the Flanfolk.

Faint sunlight filters through the leafy canopy to illuminate a forest floor carpeted with decaying leaves. The rangers pick up the trail quickly. The lad’s way leads them to the banks of the Laughing Brook, a shallow babbling stream that bounces and rushes over small stones. The sound of its splashing waters, strangely, remind of laughter.

“Looks ‘a me like ‘e skidded down the bank and plopped in t’ the water there,” Boots observes from the impressions in the mud where the ground slopes down sharply for about five feet to the water. “But I don’t see no signs ‘e climbed back out this side the stream.”

Gundoriel warns Bryn, “If the child has crossed the Laughing Brook, he has wandered into Fey Lands.” Bryn relays the warning to the rest of the party, but Boots and Ansgar are already crossing the shallow stream, heedless. Bryn shrugs and goes to follow, but Fang cannot be coaxed across despite her best efforts. Bryn tells Fang to await her return. “We’ll be right back.” Gundoriel says that he also prefers to wait with Fang, but Bryn will have none of that. “Who will look after us without you?”

When Spring Comes

Gundoriel steps across the water and into the fey lands. Presently the laughter of the brook fades behind them. Unlike the rest of the Dim Forest, where a decaying canopy of leaves ever clings to the branches above, weak sunlight shines through bare branches. Last autumn’s fallen leaves cover the forest floor. The air feels strange. Something different.

Gundoriel, who rarely speaks, begins to speak out loud to the air. Bryn translates his olven words, “He says, ‘Unseen ones. We do not mean to trespass. Please grant us passage. We follow a human child, and when we have found him, we will leave your wood.”

Speaking then to the rangers in stern tones, Gundoriel offers the party instructions for dealing with the fey. Bryn translates for the benefit of her companions. “He says, ‘We must be cautious. Obey what rules they impose or suffer the penalty. A gift must be reciprocated. Always ask permission for passage. Don’t cross the fey lords. Keep your iron sheathed. A bargain is better than a fight, but beware of being cheated, and be ready to cheat when you can. Remember that a fey’s possessions are part of the faerie, and if you take something of theirs, they will want it back at most any cost.” 

Boots abruptly drops to one knee, an arrow nocked on his bow. Using a hand sign, he indicates to the others that he has seen something moving through the trees. At that moment, they all see a wispy green figure resembling a young woman, save she has no visible legs. Instead, her rippling green cloak tapers off into nothing as she silently glides along the ground with arms outstretched. She flutters behind a tree and passes out of sight as suddenly as she appeared, but in her wake, grass has grown and trees have budded.

“Tis the spirit of Spring Time!” Ansgar exclaims with astonished grin. “The Green Man’s daughter!”

The Games They Play

Still following Dyvan’s trail, the rangers press deeper into the Fey Wood of the Dim Forest. It’s difficult to tell how much time has passed or how far they have come. The faerie forest seems endless. Massive trees spread out in every direction. A sound like tiny bells rings in the branches above.

“Ouch! Tha’s the secon’ walnut what ‘it me square in the fore’ead!” Boots complains. A giggling in the branches above betrays mischief.

A walnut plunks Ansgar too. His eyes search the branches, but he can see nothing. “Now look here! We are only passing through and we mean no trouble!” he says. The grey hood of his cloak abruptly yanks itself down over his face, muffling his last words, and his booted feet launch into an irresistible jig. He cannot control them.

“Quit clownin’!” Boots scolds his friend, but Ansgar can’t stop dancing.

Gundoriel intercedes, speaking in the olven tongue, “Pixies, grant us permission to pass, if you please, and we will leave you a worthy gift. We only seek a human child that wandered into these woods.” A pixie appears fluttering about in the air. Several winged companions also appear, seated in the branches high above, giggling as they watch Ansgar dance.

“We found a boy, curly dark of head, green of eyes. We found him wandering not long ago. He was abandoned and didn’t belong to anyone, so we gave him as a gift to the queen.” Glittering pixie dust twinkles in the sunlight.

Bryn translates this, and, speaking in Flan, asks the pixie, “Can you tell us the way to the queen? We must return the child to his home.”

“I’ll tell the way to the queen’s court, but first you must play a game with me.” She extends two hands closed in fists and, speaking now in Flan, asks Ansgar to guess which hand holds her magic pebble. Ansgar has only just ended his jig and pulled his hood back to see the speaker. He puzzles a moment and points to the faerie’s right hand, but she laughs, puts her hands behind her back, switches the pebble to the other hand, then brings both hands forward again and opens them to show him the pebble in the left. She does the same with Boots and Bryn, but Gundoriel points to both hands, ending her fun. “Well played,” she admits defeat, a childish pout on her face. “And now I’ll keep my promise. Follow the path to the Queen’s Court at the Caves of Twilight Resplendent.” She points in a direction over the hill and says, “Walk toward the Knobby Oak until you reach the path. Follow it to its source and slip behind the glimmering curtain.” She flutters closer, and whispers in Bryn’s ear, “Stay on the path. Be sure to stay on the path.” Giggling as she goes, she flutters up into the tree branches to rejoin her companions. Tiny bells tinkle as she ascends.  

The Fey Orchard

The path to the Knobby Oak leads deeper into the woods and through an ancient apple orchard. Though still early spring, far too early for apples, the branches of the trees droop heavy with ripe fruit. “Don’t pick the apples,” Gundoriel warns, but before Bryn can translate his warning to the Flan tongue, Boots has picked an apple from a nearby tree. A pair of deep-set eyes pop open and the features of a wooden face in the bark of the tree become apparent. “Give it back!” the voice of the tree rumbles.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Books apologizes with a bite of apple already in his mouth. He hands the bitten apple back. A leafy branch snatches it out of his hand. “Don’t see me picking your fruits, do you? Now shove off,” the tree scolds. Scowling faces appear on the other apple trees. Presently all the trees are jeering and hurling green, unripe apples at the rangers. “You want some apples?” the trees mock.

“Hurry. Let’s hurry along,” Bryn urges her companions as she shields her face from hurled apples.

Spirit of the Water

Their path leads to a shallow stream. The trees on each bank reach across to form something like an arched ceiling over the water. On the far bank grows a gnarled oak appointed with prominent knobs and knotholes. Each one looks like a face. Ansgar crosses the stream and tries to coax the knobby oak to speak, but it remains silent. “Well, now what? The boy’s trail has disappeared, and we’ve come to a dead end.” Boots scouts about for some sign of a path, but none can be found.

“The pixie said, ‘Walk toward the Knobby Oak until you reach the path. Follow it to its source … stay on the path,’ but there is no path,” Bryn puzzles. When she rehearses the pixie’s directions for Gundoriel, he observes, “A path ends without a source, but a shallow stream might be a path.”

The party follows the flowing path upstream. Their footfalls splash in the cold water, and the water soaks through their boots. “She said, ‘Stay on the path,’ Bryn reminds them.

The clear, pure sound of a woman’s song harmonizes with the song of the stream. A sweet enchantment rises and falls in her voice. The rangers creep up cautiously, approaching a place where the stream pools on one bank. A stunning nymph sits on a grassy spot, brushing honey blonde hair which extends to her slender waste. She dangles bare feet in the water. The sight of her elfin beauty so startles them that Boots chokes on his breath, Ansgar swoons, and Gundoriel stares until his eyes grow dim. Bryn asks the silk-clad river daughter, “May we have permission to pass. We travel to the Queen’s Court at the Caves of Twilight Resplendent in search of a little lost boy we would return to his nanny.”

Delighted at the prospect of company, the nymph introduces herself as Sesonya, for she has been ever so lonely. She asks everyone’s names, their favorite flowers (hers is the daffodil), their ages and horoscopes, and all about their homes and folk they know. She asks about the goings on in Geoff and whether the Green Man has been seen in their land. She apologizes profusely for her dazzling beauty and for blinding poor Gundoriel’s eyes, “But you shouldn’t sneak up on a girl like that.” Yes, she could possibly cure his eyes with a little charm she knows, but that would cost something. She would like him to stay with her, just for a month or two, or longer if he like, for some chitchat. Gundoriel promises that, if she will restore his eyesight, he will make good on her request, but only after they return from the Caves of Twilight Resplendent. Sesonya agrees to the terms, lifts the blindness, and lets the party pass her pool, but she makes Gundoriel swear a solemn oath, vowing that he will return to her and spend a month or two discussing all sorts of interesting subjects.

“Stay on the path,” the river nymph warns. The party continues on their way.

Would You Leave the Path?

The air grows warmer, and the scent of spring stronger. Large butterflies flutter, and new flowers blossom along the banks. The drab brown and grey of winter in the Dim Forest gives way to pale green as buds put forth their first leaves.

A little cottage surrounded by a pleasant garden sits upon a knoll beyond the bank. A middle-aged woman in a baker’s apron appears in the cottage window, “Dyvan! Dyvan, you little scoundrel. Been playing in the garden again?”

A childs voice: “I’ve caught a catapilla!”

Ansgar needs no further persuasion. “Surely tis the lad!” He crosses the river to climb the bank, but Bryn catches his arm and yanks him back.

“We mustn’t! Remember the rules. We mustn’t leave the stream!”

“But he’s the reason we’ve come!” Ansgar protests.

“Bryn’s right, Ans,” Boots adds. “The pixie says don’ leave the path, and the stream’s the path.”

Ansgar is not persuaded, but the party overrules him. He broods over the matter until, some distance further along, he spies a child no taller than a halfling, head of curly dark brown hair, green of eyes crouching over the edge of the stream. The boy scoops up water with his hands. Ansgar crouches and signals the others to do so as well. Too late. The boy catches sight of the party. He scampers back into the trees, but they soon see his innocent face peeking around the trunk.

“Come ‘ere boy. We come t’ take ya back t’ ya nan,” Boots tries to coax the child.

“I could catch him,” Ansgar mutters, but Bryn clings to him and insists that no one leave the stream.

Some distance further, Ansgar sees the boy again, not far from the bank. The child sweeps a long stick back and forth in front of him, oblivious to the threat of a great cat stalking from behind, about to pounce. “I’ve got to save the boy!” Ansgar is in anguish. Boots has an arrow on the string, but the shaft falls short. The large cat is more than fifty feet up the bank and partially concealed.

Gundoriel puts a hand on Ansgar’s shoulder to calm him. Shouting to the boy in the olven tongue, the Oytwood elf says, “We won’t be fooled by your illusions.” The spell is broken. The panther turns into a lifeless stick leaning up against a tree trunk. The face of the boy dissolves into a horrid visage of a wrinkled green-skinned hag. Her lips peel back to reveal a mouth full of sharp teeth, and her red eyes sparkle with malice. “You’ll never find him,” she assures. “If you do, it will cost you.”  

“Pay her no heed. I believe she cannot harm us, so long as we stay on the path,” Gundoriel assures Bryn.

Of Gates and Guardians

Leaving the hag and her illusions, the party soon hears the sound of water falling. It pours down from a ledge some thirty feet above and fills a rocky pool—the source of the stream. Sunlight refracts in the mist of the falling water. Rainbow colors dance in the air. An arc of mushrooms grows on the rock face on either side of the waterfall, forming a faerie ring. “Tis the glimmering curtain!” Bryn declares. “The Caves of Twilight Resplendent will be behind the waterfall then!”

“Feets already wet. May as well the rest o’ me too,” Boots chuckles.

Behind the waterfall, a narrow cave coated in lichen cuts directly into the hillside. The rangers take some time to fiddle about lighting a torch before going further. By the light of the torch, they come upon a pair of large silver gates. It’s swirling bars are adorned with stars. To the left of the gate stands a statue of some exotic creature—a wingless eagle, except that two rams’ horns curve out from the top of the head, and the front legs look like human arms while the back legs are those of a great cat. It sits up on a two-foot pedestal. It’s eyes open, revealing pupilless orbs. A deep and grating voice softly growls, “You have not been summoned.”

Ansgar speaks up and explains their quest and how the pixies sent them hither. The guardian replies, “You have not been summoned.” With some coaxing from Gundoriel, Bryn asks for the gift of passage. The guardian replies, “A gift for a gift. Show me something new, and you may pass through.” One by one, the adventurers present gifts to the guardian, small trinkets carried on their person, a recitation of a traditional poem of Gyruff, a tale of old Gorna Town, a priestly miracle—whatever it takes to amuse the guardian until he grants them passage and opens the gates. “Welcome to the Caves of Twilight Resplendent. Best to stay on the path. It leads directly to the queen’s court.”

As the party passes through the gates, their iron weapons, armor, and every piece of iron on their person, turns to silver. “Now that’s a pretty trick!” Bryn exclaims as she examines her glave by the light a torch. “I should find it useful if I knew a spell like that!”

When the Mask is the Face

By the light of torch, the four adventurers follow a twisting and turning tunnel on a steep descent into the earth. Presently, the darkness gives way to luminescence. Small clumps of crystal stud the rock faces of the walls; ceiling and floor glow with pulsating light. The illuminated tunnel leads them deeper into the fading lands. For how long they have walked, Bryn cannot guess. At last the tunnel passes under an elaborately carved arch and opens into a grand hall, lit by a thousand illuminated crystals glittering and twinkling like stars. High vaulted ceilings and cleverly sculpted walls hung with ornate balconies give the vastness of the hall the look and feel of the grand hall of a palace. Doors along the walls open into hallways leading all directions. An elaborate mosaic floor depicting scenes from the Dim Forest creates a glittering path down the center.

The mouths of the three rangers hang agape at the sight of countless fey moving about in a hundred different directions. Even Gundoriel hesitates as he takes it all in. Twinkling trails of magical pixie dust weave about through the air as the little winged creatures flitter back and forth. Faerie folk decked in finery hurry about their business. Satyrs lope along, hooves clicking and clopping on the stones. Grigs hop about underfoot; clusters of nymphs lean over balconies, spilling their long hair and laughing like gentle rain. The fey folk seem to defy gravity, leaping vertically from the floor to landings and balconies high above along the walls. They utilize the magical enchantment of certain jumping spots on the stone floor carved into stylized frogs. None of the fey seem to notice the visitors or pay them any mind.

“I never thought to see such things as all these,” Ansgar speaks aloud the wonder his companions also feel.

“Which way now? Must be ‘undred doors leadin’ off!” Boots shakes his head.

Bryn motions toward the mosaic path that leads into the midst of the thronging hall, “Stay on the path.”

The vastness of the great hall stretched on and on. The Caves of Twilight Resplendent rivals the great underground cities of dwarves, gnomes, and dark elves. After half an hour of walking (or so it seems), the hall ends in an elegant rectangular chamber appointed with several levels of balconies and halls. Living vines climb columns and pilasters supporting an open sky dotted with thousands of stars—or so it appears.

A large throne sits upon a raised dais, flanked by fruit tees bearing apples, pears, figs, currants, oranges, and cherries. Their fruit-laden leafy boughs form a splendid canopy over the throne. Large lilies loom on all sides of the throne. Hummingbirds suck their nectar before zipping away and returning.

At the center of the room stands the imposing figure of a solemn faerie: the queen’s chamberlain. A frowning porcelain mask conceals his face, long gloves conceal his hands and forearms to the elbows, and his whole body is cloaked in a long robe of live birds, all cooing contentedly. The chamberlain bows politely and inquires from behind his mask, “What urgent errand brings three children of Gyruff and a servant of Larethian to the Caves of Twilight Resplendent?” The rangers hear the words in the Flan tongue, but Gundoriel hears the words in perfect olven.

Gundoriel steps forward and explains the quest and asks permission to inquire of the queen. The chamberlain says that he will pass on the request. In a sudden rush of movement, the birds on his robe all take flight, revealing there is no chamberlain. The birds scatter, flying down different hallways. Two fly away with the gloves and another carries away the mask.

“Beory’s Bosom! I never saw nothin’ afore that!” Boots exclaims.

A few minutes pass. The birds return and reform into the chamberlain. As soon as the mask falls in place, the chamberlain says, “Her most gracious and resolute majesty, Queen Lhiannon of the Twilight Resplendent, sends greetings and extends unto thee the gift of hospitality. She will grant thy audience on the morrow when she holds court. Until then, she invites her guests to attend the costume ball which is to be conducted this evening.”

Fluttering pixies trailing sparkles quickly usher the adventurers through a complicated maze of passages and to a comfortable chamber supplied with watered wine, food, and a warm fire.  The pixies ask the party what costumes they will choose for the ball, firmly insisting that they must all wear costumes.

The Costume Ball

“This way! This way! Hurry! The ball has already begun!” A small swarm of pixies hustles the party along. Gundoriel wears garments befitting a Seelie priest. A frowning mask conceals his face. Bryn looks elegant in a gown of leaves. Twigs and branches twine through her hair. Her face is painted like dryad’s. To the pixie’s visible disappointment, Ansgar has refused to costume himself, announcing he will dress as a ranger of Gyruff. Boots, however, embraces the fun. He wears a wig of flowing blond hair and a loose-fitting floral gown more appropriate for an overgrown faerie princess than a stubble-faced Flanman of Geoff.

“Who are you supposed to be?” Ansgar inquires with unconcealed disgust.

“I’m a lady!” Boots sounds offended.

The pixies lead the party into an arcaded ballroom rivaling that of the richest kings. Unoerthly music, haunting and enchanting, rises and falls like the song the elves. At the center of the ballroom a blurry swirl of costumed faeries reel to the music, baffling the eye with illusions and fey magic. Brownies, sprites, and pixies intermingle, passing deftly under the feet of larger fairies. None are trampled and no one trips. A dancing bear wheels about with impossible grace. A satyr disguised as a proper gentlemen pursues a nymph festooned in feathers, her pretty face concealed behind a beaked mask.  A birch-skinned dryad dressed as a pirate dances with a ribboned treant. Eldarin and seelie folk laugh at each other’s outfits. Into this choreographed mayhem Gundoriel slips easily, taking the first faeirie girl he finds for a dancing partner.

Ansgar scowls, “I don’t dance!” When a handsome fey nobleman leads Bryn onto the floor, his eyes flash jealously.

“Come on then,” Boots urges his friend, but Ansgar remains unmoved. The ranger keeps his eyes fixed unhappily on Bryn and her dancing partner, resentment and jealousy painted on his face.  Boots shrugs and joins the throng. He finds himself clopping clumsily opposite a graceful pixie girl who squeals, “Don’t you want to stay with us here forever and ever?”

Read part two of Gifts of the Fey: The Caves of Twilight Resplendent
Visit the Geoff page for more from the Liberation of Geoff.

DM Notes: My version of this campaign differed from the written adventure on only minor points. I omitted the unnecessary introduction from Morwenna the Fair by giving her list of fey rules to the player for Gundoriel the grey elf. It seemed reasonable to assume that an elf might already know the rules governing fairy land.

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