The Children of Eisenwald

The Rarest of Mushrooms
A simple delivery leads to both wonder and disaster.

After a good night's sleep, the party awakes and heads downstairs into the common room of The Duke's Rest, to find that their benefactor Ernst Wolf Ribbentrop has left for the day on business, leaving them each a small stipend of coins and some instructions with the innkeeper, Herr Hill

They are instructed to deliver a wooden box to the local Herbalist's shop, and are advised — for reasons not stated — to stay away from the harbor district and not to cross the river into the wealthier district of Kusteburg. Afterwards, they are to show Ugo around to some tradesman's shops, to see if he sees a trade that interests him. Siegfried — being the most familiar with Kusteburg — takes the lead, and drops the box into a sack, which on second thought he hands to Ugo to carry.

The party sets off, and finds it is a generally normal day in Kusteburg, with the townsfolk bustling about their business. They encounter a pair of street performers who seem utterly disengaged with their work, not even bothering to thank a passing citizen who drops a coin in their cup. Siegfried notices and comments on their lack of flair, which prompts Ugo to approach them – with Siegfried hovering protectively just behind - and ask what they are doing, which they answer curtly and brush off further inquiries with gruff unfriendliness. Despite this, as far as the party can tell they are just poor street performers, and so our heroes move along to their destination.

They are greeted by the shopkeeper, Anne The Herbalist, who eagerly opens the proffered box to reveal five rare mushrooms from the Eisenwald Forest. Inviting the party to come along, Ann goes down a hallway into a dimly lit back room, where she (evidently) begins talking to a plant and placing the mushrooms in front of it.

As their eyes adjust to the dimness, the party approaches to discover that the plant is, in fact, a large mushroom itself. More interestingly, this mushroom possesses arms, legs, and eyes. More interestingly still, this mushroom is moving around of its own accord. Startled at first, the party quickly warms to the little creature as it absorbs the medicinal mushrooms provided to it, becoming even more active as it does so. Anne explains that the creature's name is Buu, and he was found in a somewhat sickly condition by mushroom hunters in Pilzstadt. He was then passed on to Wolf by the Mayor, who mutually agreed to keep him a secret, which the party generally agrees was probably wise, and Wolf in turn left him with Anne, hoping her expertise in herbs and fungi could shed some light on Buu's nature. For his part, Buu seems to be currently content with this situation, responding positively and even warmly to Ann and the party, though he rebuffs Evonni when she asks to pick him up.

The creature can communicate mentally with Anne, but not the party, and she surmises that extended exposure is required to speak to it and hear it in this way. Nonetheless, Buu can understand the party's words, and makes himself understood to the party as best he can with gestures, nods, and head shakes, with Ann relaying more complex messages.

Shortly, Anne hears other customers enter the shop up front, and leaves to attend to them while the party continues watching Buu in rapt fascination, as the little mushroom-creature revels in his new vigor and mobility, moving around the room and inspecting the various raised planters. Ugo comments that this is much more fun to watch than the surly performers outside, and Siegfried agrees, saying that Buu's capering would probably bring in a lot more coin than half-hearted juggling, but also that it's probably for the best that Buu is not subjected to that kind of public exposure. Evonni attempts to ask Buu how long he's been with Anne, and so Buu attempts to communicate the concept of "ten days" by pointing to a sunbeam and then making ten lines in the dirt, but Evonni is unable to make sense of it. 

Ugo then hears something from the front, and when he listens closer realizes that it is angry shouting. Thinking that the Herbalist might be in trouble, he alerts his friends and bolts towards the shop front, with the rest of the party and Buu following. 

They find a group of armed men threatening  Anne. Ugo rushes in and strikes a glancing blow to one of them, but is pushed back. The men advise the party not to intervene, appearing to be single-minded in their objective — the man Ugo struck is the apparent leader and says they are there to reclaim their property. Buu attempts to stay out of sight behind Evonni, but the leader of the brigands catches sight of him and advances, saying that Buu is the "property" he has come to take. 

Since no real justification for their invasion of Anne's shop was provided, Siegfried interposes himself between the leader and Buu and engages the head brigand in a sword fight. Buu, surprising everyone, somehow produces a cloud of fog to obscure himself and Evonni. Evonni takes advantage of this, darting out of the fog to loose arrows at the enemy and then darting back in to conceal herself, though aiming is difficult with so many of her allies around and enemies overlapping each other. 

It goes poorly, as Evonni and Siegfried are the only well-armed members of the party. A club-wielding thug grabs Ugo from behind and holds him fast despite his struggling, and in so doing breaks the chain around Ugo's neck. The moment he does so, Ugo finds himself in a forest, in the company of a white bearded man and a white horse. The old man introduces himself as Content Not Found: cheim, and says he has been watching Ugo. He claims he is an ally of the forest itself, who seeks other allies to protect the Eisenwald, and to fight injustice, those who would do harm, and — he makes a point of mentioning — bullies. As Ugo watches in a mixture of amazement and unease, Cheim reaches into the horse's body and — seemingly without causing pain or damage — draws forth a clean white rib and offers it to Ugo, saying that this will be a symbol of Cheim's alliance with him, and that he is not to lose it. Ugo, somewhat reluctantly accepts the gift, and feels a rush of power. Cheim bids him farewell, and Ugo finds himself sailing away through the air before reappearing in the shop, behind the thug that had seized him. 

Ugo grins, and with an instinctive gesture of the bone wand that sends nearby flower petals swirling around the thug, the man sways on his feet, and then collapses to the floor as though he fell into an exhausted sleep. The party is amazed, but has no time to react as they are occupied with the other thugs and their uncommonly skilled leader, whom Siegfried struggles desperately to match in swordplay.

Another of the thugs starts to advance and Coge tries to seize him with a curious technique used at the monastery, but as he does so the crystal around his neck starts to glow, and the technique proves to be a somatic motion that unleashes a ray of frost on the thug. With all the thugs thus engaged with the party, Anne darts through door to the storefront. 

Still struggling to hold their own, Seigfried scores a few hits on Content Not Found: gypsy, who is then buffeted along with another of the thugs by a roaring breath of frost exhaled by Koge. Ugo then manifests another ability and strikes at the leader with an coldly lashing vine of withering force, but the leader keeps his feet still, and in a flurry of attacks strikes down Siegfried. Ugo roars in anger, projecting a dread presence that pauses the leader's advance momentarily, but the leader shakes it off after several seconds and manages to wake the thug Ugo had put to sleep. 

Buu attempts to intervene, causing vines to erupt from the ground and grasp at the thugs, but the brigands break free of them. Coge backs towards the door, hurling icy blasts, but most fail to find their mark as he is forced to aim around his rapidly falling allies. Ugo succumbs to the leader's seemingly invincible assault and falls alongside Siegfried, as Evonni blocks the door. The leader tells her to stand aside, to which she bravely refuses, but with all the thugs converged on her she is struck down just the same. The thugs head into the fog to search for Buu, who manages to stab one in the leg with a dagger before the other three seize and disarm him, and then stuff him in a sack. 

While the thugs are thus occupied, Coge follows Anne to summon help, and finds her already on the way with the city guard. As he calls out them the, the thugs push past him and flee down an alley with Buu. The watch arrives with Ann, who rushes into the shop as the guards pursue the brigands. Anne binds the wounds of the fallen and prevents them from dying, while Coge elaborates on the situation to the guard captain, skirting around the sensitive issue of Buu by describing him as a valuable mushroom which the thugs have stolen.

Just then, the other guards return and inform the captain, Anne, and the party that the thugs had a boat waiting, and have unfortunately escaped by water with their "stolen mushroom".

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The Story Begins
The Wolf assembles a pack.

The story begins as the unseen Narrator tells a story to an unknown group of travelers from the sea, going first to Kusteburg, and then to Pilzstadt where the Narrator advises his audience that the tale starts.

Siegfried Sommer, adventuresome young musician, is summoned to The Shaggy Mane Inn by the mayor of Pilzstadt, whom he finds in conference with Mr. Wolf, the master of markets and commissioner of Shroomspringa. The two officials explain that a royal envoy from a distant kingdom is to arrive in Pilzstadt, with an eye towards purchasing some of the imperishable cedar wood from the ancient dead-fall "Ruddy Hans". They hope to welcome him with music from the envoy's homeland, with which Siegfried is not familiar, so the young musician is sent to accompany Mr. Wolf to Kusteburg where a traveling minstrel familiar with the foreign songs can teach them to Siegfried

Meanwhile Evonni Kruger, the reclusive hunter, searches the Forest of Eisenwald on an errand for Mr. Wolf. Her keen eyes spot the object of her hunt — an as yet unrevealed object — and with this mysterious item secured she makes her way to the river to wait for Wolf's arrival as instructed.

Later, the eager but troubled young Ugo Dunkelauge is on the fringes of Pilzstadt where he spots and avoids a pair of local bullies, whom he shortly thereafter witnesses absconding with something from the inn, and then making a quick escape. Ugo was also summoned to meet with Wolf at the inn, and so he makes his way there. Upon his arrival, Mr. Wolf informs him that his family has been formally accepted into the village, and furthermore that Mr. Wolf has commissioned him to go on Shroomspringa. (It appears from the mayor's reactions that Wolf has somehow pressured or cajoled her into agreeing to these actions against her own wishes.) Ugo is at first stunned, and then nearly panicked when he is told that he must leave immediately, and is given scrip by Wolf to outfit himself at the general store. 

Ugo, having assembled a bindle of supplies from the general store, heads to the dock where he meets Siegfried. Together, they board the barge and Ugo almost falls into the water as he tries to copy Siegfried's casual hop from dock to deck, but Siegfried catches him with a swift Acrobatic maneuver and pulls him aboard, where Wolf shortly joins them and the barge sets off downriver. 

Elsewhere, the enigmatic wanderer Coge Fenter finds his way to Kusteburg, where he attempts to find work but has difficulty explaining the nature of his talents to the townsfolk. It is there where he encounters a Mysterious Woman, who seems to sense potential in him, and offers him an opportunity. 

Back on the barge, Ugo discusses Shroomspringa with Siegfried, the latter having already completed his. Before long, the barge crew slows the vessel at Wolf's behest and briefly steer towards the bank, where Evonni is waiting and hops aboard without a word. The two young men try to engage her conversation, but she is reserved and the company soon lapses into an awkward silence, broken only when Siegfried decides to play his hornpipe to the delight of the barge crew. 

The barge group arrives in Kusteburg, and after leaving the harbor there they encounter The Mysterious Woman, whom Wolf seems to know and be slightly discomfited by. (Leading Ugo to suspect her of being Wolf's "special lady friend".) After parting ways, Wolf takes the group to The Dukes Rest, a nicer inn past the harbor, and leaves them in the care of Herr Hill the innkeeper. Siegfried, always eager to spread his fame in Kusteburg seeks to ply his trade but discovers a pair of minstrels already playing there, much to his chagrin. 

In the back room, Wolf meets with and hires the perplexed Coge. Coge accepts Mr. Wolf's offer and they toast with a liquid poured out of a Flask before Mr. Wolf sends him out to meet his new compatriots in the common room while Wolf attends to another matter. After introductions, during which Siegfried unsuccessfully tries to nail down what exactly it is that Coge does, dinner is served. As they eat, Siegfried brings up the subject of his favorite tavern game: darts. Herr Hill happens to have an old dart board in the basement made from a crosscut log, which he dusts off and hangs up in the common room for his guests. They each take turns, with Ugo narrowly hitting the board, Siegfried striking near the center with one of his own hand-fletched darts, and Coge employing a strange throwing technique to get a bullseye. Evonni then misses badly with a wild throw that ricochets improbably around the common room, before hurling one of her daggers at the board in frustration instead and hitting the bullseye dead-on. Thereafter she declared the game to be stupid, and retrieved her dagger from the board, leaving an immense gouge where the bullseye had been. Siegfried wryly congratulated her on having "slain the dartboard."

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