Chapter 3, Part III: From the Ground Up

As the party faced the formidable Death Knight, Drez valiantly scaled the wall and charged at the menacing foe. Firebrook, always ready to help his comrades, sacrificed a level of exhaustion to cast healing word and save Vance from a dire situation. Meanwhile, Bart helped to tie up some loose ends by using the Rope of Entanglement to restrain the Death Knight, while Firebrook unleashed a massive radiant spell on the enemy. Not to be outdone, Xerxes unleashed a critical chaos bolt, dealing a devastating blow and ultimately defeating the Death Knight in an epic display of their combined might.

As the Death Knight was killed, a rift in the sky opened, spitting out a rotting dragon which spewed necrotic ooze across the town as it swooped down towards the tree. Aurifar, summoning an explosion of power, shredded the red and black dragon like it had swallowed a bomb.

As the dust settled, the party had a moment to catch their breath and chat with a distraught father named Jonas, who was searching for his daughter, Callista. Vance, never one to mince words, revealed a shocking truth that left Jonas reeling. The Callista he saw at the beginning of the battle was not his daughter but some kind of demon that attacked them all, causing Xerxes to be poisoned and paralyzed. Jonas, upon hearing the details, shared his insight, identifying the creature as a maurezhi, an undead entity with a sinister ability to assume the appearance and memories of its prey.

As they interacted with Jonas, Firebrook sensed a mix of truth and guilt in his words, making them wonder about his true intentions. Jonas informed them that this particular attack on the Wiltspar was completely unprecedented; it seemed like a coordinated effort by rare and deadly creatures at a scale that left even the most seasoned of the Wiltspartans stunned.

Taking Jonas's advice, the party decided to seek answers from Penelope and Chauncey, the secretaries of Wiltspar. The female Harengon twin, Penelope, welcomed them with warmth and gratitude while the brother of the pair welcomed them with an apathetic nod.

Firebrook, always knowing when to ask a well-placed question, inquired about the ruins. Penelope consulted her vast journal of documentation-- a tome that could rival a small library with the volume and variety of its contents-- and let Firebrook and the Talons know that the ruins were just recently discovered, and the team that had been sent to collect more information about them had recently been found dead on the first floor. The Talons recalled discovering the goblin duo in the ruins earlier that day, and Nohki returned their barely-started journal to Penelope with their sincerest condolences. Firebrook also asked Penelope if she was aware of anything connected to the Sienfete family symbol. After flipping at breakneck speed through her book, she contritely returns that there is no known information about it, but after asking a few questions of him, adds the entry to her book for further study and collection of knowledge.

As they spoke with the knowledgeable duo, Xerxes couldn't resist asking about the infamous masked man. Penelope tells him that there is information in her book about the Masked Man, but that he has been inactive and has not been spotted for many years, but that he is known for or linked to previous murders and arsons.

Penelope and Chauncey explain the Wiltspar Reconstruction Program, and how the Platinum Talons might help their village, not just return to its previous state, but build it bigger and better than ever before.

While at the Wiltspar, the Talons learn about Harmonization, a process where someone can connect with the Wiltspar tree by touching it, and in doing so, reveal other saplings of the Wiltspar throughout the world. If that person were to also Harmonize with an individual sapling, they could travel instantaneously through the roots of the tree to return to the Wiltspar. And once they had connected with a sapling, they could travel from the Wiltspar to an individual sapling that they had already Harmonized with. As Penelope walked the Talons through the process of Harmonization, Nohki realized that the strange black bark of the tree with the glittering silver fibers reminded him of the tree back home that had once saved his and his brother's life by sheltering them during a vicious attack on his home. As he remembered his home tree, Nohki suddenly found himself standing in front of it, out in the wildly overgrown thicket that had been his village: the Amazon Lily.

As Nohki tried to get his bearings and understand what had happened, his brother appeared beside their home tree, telling him that the same had happened to him when he Harmonized with the Wiltspar, and he wanted to make sure that his brother was okay.

After a touching moment, where they reflected on the heartache of their once beautiful home returned into the wild, Darien helped Nohki return to the Wiltspar where Penelope was in the middle of calling a full-blown code red emergency due to the sudden disappearance of her newest inductee.

After calming Penelope down, the Talons plan to set out into the village to help it recover from the day's battle. But they, first, want to check in with Aurifar, who had expended an awesome amount of energy to save the village from the red and black dragon that had materialized above the tree.

They climbed a spiral stairway up higher in the tree to Aurifar's room where they found the older man coughing and deeply weakened as he rested in bed.

Aurifar explained that the Keepers of Destiny sent a faction of people to the Wiltspar to protect it, and that he was one of the leaders that helped to build a presence on Centra to keep it safe and whole as the monsters continued to descend.

They ask how they can best help to protect the tree and the village. As he bids them goodbye to get more rest, he tells them that the Wiltspar Reconstruction Program run by Penelope and Chauncey is the best effort he's seen in some time to bolster the Wiltspar.

The Talons then went to the village to help the town and the people within it recover from the attack.

Xerxes interacted with the combatants – Renwick, Silvermist, Bubbles, and Ssaaltine – while, at the stable, Bart spoke with Kenny the Stable Guy. Nohki met with Darien and learned of his role as a "Champion" within the Wiltspar community. Drez was introduced to Thorngrasp as he helped to repair the wall, a Hill Giant known as a "Builder" within the community.

The Talons all successfully contributed to the rebuilding efforts, earning the town's gratitude and an additional haul of valuable resources.

With the day saved and the village rebuilding, the party decided stop by the inn and accidentally found themselves taking on new roles. Firebrook became the de facto bartender and concocted a drink so soothing, he aptly named it the "Radiant Boon." Nohki became the interim chef, cooking his Orc-learned Burger Bombs for as many people as he had supplies to feed. Vance, under his stage name, Banjo Kazooie, gave a morale-boosting performance that re-invigorated the Wiltspartans. His song was perfectly crafted to boost their spirits, and his words and music relighting the fire in these grief-stricken people. They remembered that they were there to protect the tree and make Fynali a better place for everyone, and their mission to do so is renewed by his music.

The heartwarming acts of kindness by the party inspired everyone to work through the night.

The Talons eventually returned to the inn to sleep and read their books.

In the morning, Xerxes came down to cook breakfast, but found that breakfast was already made.

Cedric Gruntsby, a half-orc, and a tortle named Blake Shelldon made breakfast to thank the Talons for their kindness the day and night before, and they give the party 345 gold, a gift they had collected from the people of the village. Jonas gave everyone in the party a potion of mana and a potion of healing.

The party decided to stay in Wiltspar for one more day, helping out to rebuild the village, and most notably, to help begin construction on the Wiltspar chapter of the Adventurers' Guild International.

The following day, they used their Orb of Last Location to make their way back to Platinum City and the AGI there.

The hunger for adventure was still strong within them, and so they immediately selected a quest off of the Quest Board to assist a young fairy boy named Ollie decode a letter from his late grandfather. With their heads and talents combined, the Talons were able to decipher the jumble of Giant, Infernal, and Draconic languages to unearth the location of Grandpa's buried Treasure:

"Deep in Holcroft Cavern, there is a naturally occurring stream that breaks into three. Follow the eastmost stream to the dead end. Knock 3 knocks on the hollow tree and drop a whiteberry inside."

And they were off on the next leg of their great adventure.

Completed: July 2023