The party is divided. While Grog distracts Belak, the others are split between letting the impending suicide play out or taking matters into their own hands. Even among those who wish to do something, some wish to kill the grotesque follower of the Great Mother while others think that merely capturing him will cease the spread of the malicious apples to the greater world. With division, an unwillingness to act settles upon the party and as Belak loses interest in Grog’s apple-handling blasphemy, he moves to the front of the tree and buries his head in the trunk, attempting to merge with his deity.
Unbeknownst to any others, the ranger, Grog, has been holding back his growing disgust with the blights upon nature around him. His mission from Keller is now a blasphemy to the nature he calls his home, and his friends are afflicted by the unnatural tree and it’s guardian. Taking the obscenity no more, he strikes at Balak’s body and with one fell blow, he cuts the torso from the tree to prevent the filthy ritual from completion.
The Great Mother is no longer dormant. Her servants awaken in the branches above. With the paladin-turned-servant raging forward in service, Her tree-blights fall from the canopy to defend Her and attack those who would defile the sacred planting grounds of Nerull. A monstrosity rises from the silvery water: a group of blights joined together in a raging mass of limbs. The party has enraged the Great Mother, and they must pay!
First a Tree-blight falls near Grog and Tsannis, but Grog dispatches it with little difficulty before another drops nearby and Tsannis must attend to it. Others drop near to Quarion and Rolena while the mass of limbs ambles slowly toward Quarion’s position along the far wall. The battles with the blights end well for the party, but there are others to deal with. Phaerus is far gone now, attacking his former ally Grog from behind. Grog attacks, but cannot seem to damage him, turning his attention to another blight. But Phaerus screams an unworldy scream, destroying the ranger’s hearing. Tsannis and Rolena finish him off, but Phaerus’ soulless figure has dealt a difficult hand; there is now no way to communicate with an already unreasonable half-orc. Tsannis is hurt badly from the encounter; nearly dead, she moves slowly toward the figure of Sharwyn to render help before she is pulled into the trunk entirely.
On the other side, Quarion has finished off his share of the blights, but now sees the ambling mass of blights and branches nearly upon him. Rolena’s well placed fire magic sets the mass alight and Quarion does battle with the foe until it has collapsed from both the flames and the fighter’s hacking. The day is nearly won!
But the battle is far from over. The Great Mother has opened her eyes; she must take this into her own hands. Tsannis, though barely able to move, is so close to the giant red eyes that she heroically stabs the mother to blind it and protect her comrades. But the Mother has power over Tsannis from the temptation of the apple. The dark ooze spills from the eye and Tsannis becomes violently ill. Her body is weakened to a frail state and the pain is too great to continue on. While the others launch into a full assault of steel and magic on the face of the mother, Calderius can only deal with the immediate damage. A healed Tsannis is but a shadow of her former self, barely able to fight but well enough to walk. Despite this, she leads Calderius to Sharwyn’s body, screaming in pain from the assault on what is now her limb.
The Mother’s branches fall all around as she attacks, but soon she is blinded. Grog sees Calderius and Tsannis struggling to free Sharwyn, but sees that the damage is too great to be reversed. As the Great Mother blindly swings her trunk like a dying animal and rises up on her roots, Grog knows that something must be done. With the second surgical swing of the day, he amputates the leg of his former comrade, and Calderius begins to carry her out of the cavern.
Meanwhile Quarion has attempted to pave the way out of the dangerous room. Dealing with an orc who shut the door, he opens the passage out, and heads over to ensure that the deaf Grog leaves the fracas. The ranger has begun to chop at the nearest root with his axe so that the Mother can no longer sustain herself. With Calderius nearby, Quarion motions to Grog, but Grog will have none of it. Reminded of the law-abiding and “good” father of his youth, he scolds Quarion for failing to follow through on the cleansing of the abomination. With a last swing of his axe, he severs the root. The Great Mother collapses, briefly trapping Calderius before Grog and Quarion release him. If not for Calderius’ quick thinking, Sharwyn would have been crushed under the weight, but she is tossed aside. The walls and roof, now ripped by the roots running through them, begin to fall apart. Quarion convinces Grog to leave as it seems the Great mother is defeated, and it is time to leave.
In the Hall, the cart is gone, and a few straggling orcs remain. The struggle is brief, as the falling ceiling aids the adventurers in killing the enemies. Though the cart is seen ahead, as the first few climb out of the well, escape is the priority, and the orcs carrying it escape.
The party makes its way to the surface as fast as it can, while Tsannis decides to run for the Dragon Key still lodged in the door. Safe above the destruction, and weary from the events and terrible costs exacted upon them, they are greeted not by rest but by the curious image of a man on the cliff face.
A Priest of Kord! A welcome sight after the evil of the ruins. Calderius asks for help and help is offered, though still some work will need to be done. The climb up the cliff is dangerous, though the elevator can be used. Edric, the priest, will gladly help… but there is a commotion. Edric shouts of an incoming enemy and leaves without lowering the elevator.
With no other options, Quarion leads up the ropes to the cliff face, and Grog, though oblivious to the situation without hearing the priest, follows him to assist. The rope falls, but both manage to climb out only to see the remnants of a battle. The Orcs about the cliff are dead, but so are the men who seem to have slain them. Two wizards, a gnome and a half-elf finish off the remaining men, shout something, which Grog cannot make out, and vanish with the cart of apples.
Having assisted the party in their long climb to the top of the cliff, the remains are surveyed. Edric is conscious, but beaten. His men have died, and his mission from Kord has failed, leaving him depressed and morose. Only Calderius can bring life back into the man’s spirit by convincing him that Kord’s will may still be done. Edric warily agrees to follow on in hopes of redemption, and the party makes its way back to Oakhurst.
Through two days of travel, the bruised and beaten travelers arrive at Oakhurst with a heirloom ring, a traumatized and amputated Sharwyn, and a listless priest. They are back.