CotH – Chapter Ten: The Battle of the Witchwood

Chapter Nine was played over two sessions split over the course of a month.

After falling unconscious during the escape from the portal beyond time and space, Kaitsja finally awoke from her slumber.

…Kaitsja…. A voice called, distant, but calm.

Her mind was clouded in fog. Wherever she was felt cool, calm, but comfortable. With her eyes closed she could feel the night air upon her skin. As she opened her eyes, she saw a canopy of trees above her, starlight gently falling through full green leaves. Her head rested upon a soft pile of mossy soil. Around her the serenade of the forest continued. Soft chirping of insects and the occasional result of wind through the trees.

It was then she notice that she felt off, empty, almost naked. Her hand slaped down to her hip and struck only soft cotton cloth. Her sword was gone, as was her armor. She was clad in simple, clean garments she have never seen before. Below her, and half pulled over her body, was a green cloak. Upon its surface was embroidered a pattern of vines and leaves.

…Kaitsja… the voice called again.

The forest was bright enough, surprising for so late at night. While mists choked passage in most directions, blocking all visibility through the trees, one narrow footpath remained clear. Walking down it, she saw a small pool formed from a fallen log, blocking a tiny stream as it wound through the ancient pines. The surface was mirror smooth, and through it Kaitsja could see the forest’s reflection and the stars high above.

Looking into the pool, Kaitsja saw her reflection. Her face was clean, cleaner than it has been since fleeing Barrelbog. Her hair shines brilliantly red in the mist. After a moment, Kaitsja noticed her eye was twitching. Slowly her reflection changed, a terrible scar growing down from her eye until it crossed the full length of her face. Her fingers followed it, but it touched only smooth skin. Kaitsja’s reflection smirked, staring back at her. The face, like the scar, has changed. Another red-headed woman stared back, approximately Kaitsja’s age.

“You can never be me.” The reflection shouted.

Suddenly the reflection’s mouth stopped, mid-scream. It shuddered, crying out in terrible pain. Boiling out from its eyes was a silvery-mercury like liquid, It covered her face and the metallic reflection emerged from the pool, until a chrome version of Kaitsja, in full armor and holding her sword loomed above her.

Kaitsja, seeing the monster that attacked her in the Charm Hinterlands, fled through the forest and it gave chase. A single path emerged from the mist as she ran, frantic. Behind her she heard the chromatic reflection clanking behind her, always just out of reach but never farther or closer.

….Kaitsja…. The voice emerged once more from the fog.

Looking for the source of the voice, her foot caught a root, and with a gasp she tumbled forward. And screamed as she landed in the freezingly cold water of the pool she had left. She sat up, and found herself sitting exactly in the center of the pool, a dozen feet from the closest shore. There was no sign of the chromatic woman that had chased her.

….Kaitsja…..

Above her, standing at the side of the pool, was a woman dressed in a simple cloak and garments, almost exactly like the ones Kaitsja now wore, but was neither her reflection nor the scarred woman from before. She stood still, her body and clothes almost fully desaturated in the fog and moonlight. Only her hair shone like spun copper beneath her hood, and from her forehead a simple crown, holding a ruby at the center, glittered with a warm red light. Like that of firelight in Chadwick’s cabin. Warm, comforting, safe.

~Kaitsja… there is not much time. Soon they will come for you. And you must be ready.

Kaitsja recognised her as the woman from the flashback she saw in the portal between time and space and asked if she was Enzia regalus. The apparation nodded. Kaitsja then asked if she was her mother.

~What does your heart tell you? The figure replied.

Kaitsja nodded, and the figure smiled.

“I cannot stay.” Enzia told her, leaning forward. “Your father would be proud of you. I know he must be. But you still have far yet to go. Before the end you will suffer, you will lose much, and what you gain you may never have wanted. I know I never did. But you must stay strong. Now, come. The night is cold and you will catch a chill.

~she offers her hand

As took it she gasped, finding herself on a bed in a warm room. Jalen sat next to her on the bed. Samiya held her hand as the woman had done. Suesenn barged into the room, another pile of comforters in her arms and a look of worry on her face. Beside the fire, Pliskin is using a poker to adjust the logs, stoked the flames hotter. Kaitsja’s body was drenched in sweat.

Samiya called out: “She’s awake!”

Kaitsja learned that she had been unconscious and feverish since she emerged from the portal, three days ago. While her siblings cared for you here in the village, Kaitsja remained cold and unresponsive. They now gather around you.

Over the last three days Jalen spent time wandering around the Village of Witchwood. In doing so you he had been taught some spells, learned much in the ways of the spell arts, and gained the spell Glyph of Warding in his spellbook. Lotte examined his spellbook and praised him, telling Jalen that Kinley had done well with your education. Jalen took to spells, it seemed, far faster than Lotte herself. She let him know that the next spell Kinley likely would have taught you was Glyph of Warding, and proceeded to spend several hours helping him master it. Jalen also learned that Lotte keeps one of the books of domesday, the Crow Book, and with it she has contacted Arius, Azmaranthe, Ukko, John Clonter, and Kareese. They are safe and somewhere in Kingsbridge.

Samiya had been by her sister’s side the entire time since they came through the portal, along with her brother Pliskin. Neither had yet found the courage to talk about what they saw in the portal, the death of their mother in Pliskin’s past. One night, while Samiya sat nervously beside Kaitsja, Lotte came to her and draped a cloak over her shoulders. It was a delicate thing, of green cloth with woven leaf patterns across the soft cotton. When Kaitsja’s fever got bad, you took it from your shoulders and draped it back over your sister. But now Samiya reclaimed it as Kaitsja threw off all of her blankets, her fever broken.

Pliskin’s time since you came through the portal has been brooding and quiet. He had mostly forgotten the death of his mother, and his failed attempt to keep her safe. Those memories are now raw, torn fresh like an open wound. The bled through his thoughts. Worse, Samiya now knows what he never had heart enough to tell her. Every look she gives him screams through his mind with guilt. He took to the village to avoid her as best he could, to be alone with his thoughts. Wandering about, he found the Tradehouse of the village, largely abandoned. Inside he found a curious item, a Pistol, inside a box labeled “relics of the revolution.” As he held it, Lotte spoke softly to him, having entered the Tradehouse without his notice. “It is not a toy, child. But it is something you will need to keep your sister, and all of your siblings, safe. It was once used by a man named Preacher. A good man. I think he would be happy to see it in the hands of one who will use it to protect others.” Over the next day Pliskin practiced, shot after shot, and started to ‘get good.’ It was a useful diversion against the guilt and fear that have been plaguing him.

Suesenn figured a town of witches would be a load of fun. Well, turns out notsomuch. What with Kaitsja comatose, Pliskin and Samiya acting like idiots with each-other, and Jalen hidden off learning from these nerds she just were left to herself. Again. Sneaking around town was fun enough. These witches had no eyes for detail, she came and went as she liked. Suesenn found a bottle of some kind of butterscotch flavored booze and thought to herself ~score~! She sneaked it away, ducked down one of the narrow places between lodge-house and the cliffs the village clinged to, only to run headfirst into Lotte. After she helped you up, Suesenn clumsily tried to hide the bottle, but Lotte quickly snatched from your hands with a smile. Sleight of hand can only go so far, Lotte said, before whispering a secret word. The item in her hand vanished, or at least, became unseeable in any meaningful way. Sometimes, Lotte told her, it’s better to make folk simply not notice rather than make things vanish entirely. Lotte then spent a few hours with Suesenn teaching her a magic spell. The concealment Cantrip:

[GAIN – Concealment – Cantrip]

Creatures must make a Wisdom save to notice a specific, small item magically disguised on your person.

An object you touch, smaller than 1 cubic foot, blurs into insignificance. For the duration of this spell, any creature that searches someone concealing that item must make a Wisdom saving throw (dc15). On a failed save, the creature fails to notice the item, and cannot make an ability check to find it. On a success, the creature is immune to the effect of this cantrip on that item for 24 hours, and may make an appropriate ability check to find the item. If the concealed object is threatening or out of place, the creature has advantage on this saving throw.

If you cast this spell multiple times, only one object may remain so hidden. The first loses the effect and the new one gains the effect.

As Kaitsja awoke, Lotte rushef into the room, her floppy hat lost for once. Her hands brushed against Kaitsja’s forehead and for a moment, there seems to be a flash of cool light. Jalen noticed this was not arcane, but divine magic.

Lotte: “I’m so glad you are with us again, child. Now, come. Come. I’ve got a nice cool bath prepared. Lets get you cleaned up.”

Lotte’s ministrations were quick and comforting, like that of a mother, should Kaitsja have ever had one. After the quick bath, she helped her dress in new clothes, identical to the ones from earlier save for the cloak (which she noticed was around Samiya’s shoulders). Her gear been cleaned and polished. Her Lion shield has been restored. A single ruby now shines from the center of the crown above the rampant lion’s head. It glows with a warm light, like that of a fireplace.

Wandering around the Witchwood, the party encountered many magical feats and wonders. Suesenn drank a potion which transformed her haircolor into that of a rainbow, changing she she shook or touched it like ripples on a pond. The Inn they found Harley and Oliver. Oliver was doing most of the talking with Harley mostly responding with her eyebrows or the occasional smirk. For all of his bluster, it is clear that these two care for each other, their hands remain firmly linked as they sit with their drinks. Thei daughter, Quinn, was found off in the outskirts of the village playing with a young witch. The two jumped on brooms and rocketed off into the horizon when the brooms started by accident. It was probably fine.

They found Arden by himself, staring out into the distance. As they approached, he began talking with them

“Seeing it all again… all of my mistakes… I’ve caused so much pain over the years. Always to stop more, I said. Someone has to make the tough choices. That’s what I told myself. You make the tough choices, you be the one everyone hates. Better you, and know what is done is right, than put off that pain and more people get hurt. But look at where we are now.

What would Chadwick say to me? What would Ezia… sigh.

You have questions i’m sure. I’ll try to answer them. As best as I can.

Kaitsja demanded what they all wanted to know. If she was, in fact, the daughter of Enzia Regalus and the rightful Queen of Ovid. After a ragged sigh, he confirmed it. Long before her death, he hid Enzia’s child. So well that he had found multiple doubles to keep her safe. After her death, he hid Kaitsja with her father, and made the rest of the world (who was looking for her) believe that one of the doubles, named Kino, was the actual daughter of Enzia. Even Kino didn’t know the truth. It was the only way to keep his promise to keep Enzia away from the dangers of the throne. But now It didn’t matter. Charles Tenmar-Yentz was after her. The Maestro was after her. Probably Waverley and the Boarhardt Guild as well. One way or another, hiding was out of the picture.

That’s when they noticed the horizon, and the fleet of airships rapidly approaching. The LCA Airfleet began firing their cannons, and the party fled for cover.

Flashing forward some time, the Mercenaries rapidly sought to catch up with the party. They pushed their airship faster than they ever thought possible. Kino knew her airships was pushing literally everything she could out of it. With Ukkos help, a storm is called to grant a favorable tailwind. They dashed across the sky like an arrow, until finally, as the sun is setting, they see the distant specks of airships appear on the horizon. Shells are falling upon the cliff-face, where a pearlescent sphere obstructed a chunk of the valley. Shells exploded upon it, being consumed in blue flames, but the shield remained strong. Half of the airships had landed, and soldiers were massing at the base of the mountain.

The orphans fought to protect the villagers as assassins moved amongst the population. Witches fought back as best as they could, but more and more soldiers charged up the hill. Lotte had held the shield for hours now, and they could can see that even with her tremendous power, more than you thought possible for a single mage, it was still wearing upon her. Her breathing is getting heavy, and her reactions in repairing the shield were beginning to lag behind the rate of fire. At the foot of the hill, soldiers have managed to burst through the shield and begin to charge up the hill. Lotte had to be kept safe or it was all over!

The orphans dashed back and forth across the battlefield. Suesenn took a fall from a great height and, miraculously, took no damage from doing so. Pliskin and Samiya took pot shots from the upper ramparts while Kaitsja eld the front line, flanked by Oliver and Harley. Jalen managed to cast a protective glyph of warding around Lotte to keep her safe as they fought.

As they did, eventually a small airship crashed crash through the shield and mountainside, destroying enemies in the area. The mercinaries and Kino emerged and began fighting back the LCA soldiers alongside their orphan allies.

At this time The Maestro and the Horn Helmed Knight appeared. Allies burst into flames around him. Kino, seeing him, charged through the lines to attack the Maestro. From high up the cliff, Arden cried out in horror.

Arden: “KINO, NO!”

Kino: “YOU MONSTER!” Kino shouts. “END THIS, YOU WANT ME, NOT THESE PEOPLE.”

Maestro: And who on earth might you be, young lady?

Kino: I am Kino, daughter of Chadwick and Enzia, rightful queen of Ovid.

The Maestro bowed.

Maestro: My lady. Well well, you do have that look about her. Even the scar. You know I killed your mother, right. Nearly killed you too the night I gave you that.”

Kino takes an involuntary step forward, before stopping.

Maestro: Such dedication. Such restraint. So little like that oaf of a father you had. Common gutter filth, wasn’t it? Tragic.

Kino: I said, take me. Leave the others.

Arden: Damn, no… no no no… (he grabbed Kaitsja) You must go inside. He whispers. Please, oh god. Please go inside. Stay hidden. I can’t lose both of you.

Maestro: Drop your weapons and surrender and I swear upon my honor, as a man, I will honor your request. I swear it by the gods and goddesses themselves, may they strike me down.

She dropped her weapons and was immediately taken. As she is carried off, Mastro says: Continue the bombardment.

Kino: BUT YOU SWORE

Maestro: Young lady, I am most certainly not a man. And there is no greater smite that gods and goddesses can do to me that hasn’t been done a thousand times over.

As the bombs fell, finally the shield shimmered and fell. Lotte fell to her knees with a cry of pain.

Arden: We have to get her out of here. (Pulled Kaitsja to Lotte). Get her safe. Anywhere.

Lotte: I’m so tired.

Arden: Lotte, please!

Lotte: I can… only take eight. No more, or we’ll be lost into space.

The party chose to send the orphans Kaitsja, Pliskin, Jalen, Samiya, and Susenn to safety, along with Arden in hopes he could explain what the hell was going on. Ukko and Arius grabbed the Crown of the Heartlands and would join them to keep them safe.

As they began to teleport, the remaining party members gathered up in a final defense in town as Lotte began to summon the last of her power.

Lotte: I’ll do what I can, but we must go! One.. ~gasp~ two… ~gasp~

Maestro saw Lotte, saw the orphans, and saw Kaitsja. His eyes went wide and he shouted so loudly everyone on the mountain could hear. “YOU. IT’S YOU.”

Oliver, Kareese, Harley, John Clonter, and Azmaranthe drew their weapons and charged the Maestro to buy just a second more time. As they charges, Lotte’s power flashed. And with a pop, they were gone. What happened to those who remained behind was unclear.

Meanwhile, in a forest somewhere far away, a small wagon rests beside a fire. A riding moose chomps at local grasses as a white haired man and a younger woman warm themselves.

Tynne: We should get moving if we’re to make it to Bentley in time to make our delivery to Lord Sellaxe.

Gardenstern: Hush! Look! See that? A wild peryton. Beautiful.

A loud crashing sound shattered the serenity, the wagon creaked, then snapped. Planks inside the wagon sound as if they were splitting. The pertyton bolted.

Gardenstern: Aww, a shame. What did you do, Tynne?

Tynne: Nothing, Master. It came from the wagon!

Gardenstern opens the door, and inside finds his wagon is full of injured and unconscious people, closest of which is Lotte, who falls out into his arms.

Gardenstern: Lov… ahem. Lotte! What happened. Who are these?

Lotte: It’s him. He’s back. [She brushed a hand against Gardenstern’s cheek] I didn’t know where was safe… only thing I could think of… was you…

She smiles faintly and then passes out. Gardenstern’s attempts to wake her ineffective. As he looked from her to the strange individuals in his now broken wagon he sighed.

Gardenstern: Change of plans, Tynne. I’m afraid we’re going to have to miss our meeting with Lord Sellax.

Tynne: Sir?

Gardenstern stuck out his hand and whispered, a flash of green light caused a massive wooden staff to appear in his hand. Each inch was covered in delicate carvings, pictograms, and words. A thousand languages or more must cover its surface, each with minute detail. With it he propped himself up and lifted Lotte up with him.

Gardenstern: It looks like it’s time for me to do something Foolish again.

The camera panned up through the glade, revealing it to be just off the road beside a wide, broad dark forest and, beyond, a quiet hamlet beside a river. The camera fades to black and music begins to roll…

Continue on to Chapter Eleven: The Beast of Bentleyshire